API: US demand for petroleum rose in March, first quarter

Total US petroleum deliveries, a measure of demand, averaged 19.2 million b/d in March, up 3.4% from a year ago and the highest level for the month since 2011, according to the American Petroleum Institute’s monthly statistics for March. Total demand in the first quarter gained 2.2% year-over-year.

“Production of both oil and natural gas liquids last month remained at the highest levels in decades even as rig counts reached a 5-year low,” said John Felmy, API chief economist. “Demand for petroleum continued to show healthy growth compared to early last year,” he said.

According to API data, US gasoline demand rose 2.2% last month from the prior year to average 8.9 million b/d—the highest deliveries for the month in 6 years. Deliveries of gasoline in the first quarter increased 2.9% vs. last year.

Distillate deliveries in March averaged just below 4 million b/d, down 1.7% from a year earlier. Over the same period, demand rose for jet fuel (1.9%), residual fuel (15.7%) and “other oils” (14%).

US crude oil production in March averaged 9.3 million b/d, up 13.2% from a year earlier and the highest March output since 1972. First-quarter crude oil production rose 14.1% compared with the year ago level.

NGL production averaged just over 3 million b/d last month, the highest March level on record and 9.1% above last year’s output. Compared with first-quarter 2014, NGL production increased 13.2%.

According to the latest reports from Baker Hughes Inc., the number of oil and gas rigs in the US in March was 1,108, a drop of 17.8% from the previous month, and 38.5% below the year-ago level.

US total petroleum imports last month averaged 9.8 million b/d. While this was the highest imports for the month in 3 years, it remains the third-lowest March level since 1997. Meanwhile, crude oil imports rose by 5.4% from March 2014 to less than 7.7 million b/d.

Refinery gross inputs rose 3.2% from last year to a record high for the month at 15.9 million b/d. Exports of refined products rose 18.1% from March 2014 to average 4.6 million b/d—the highest March level ever.

The refinery capacity utilization rate averaged 89.2% last month, up 3.4 percentage points from the previous year. API’s latest refinery operable capacity was 17.79 million b/d.

Crude stocks were up 22.1% from the prior year, ending March at 468.7 million bbl–the highest inventory level for the month since 1930. Stocks of motor gasoline ended up by 4.9% from last year at 231.8 million bbl, the highest stocks for the month since 1988. Stocks of distillate, jet fuel and “other oils” were all up from year ago levels as well.

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