Platts Pre-Report Survey of EIA/API Data Suggests 2.8 Million-Barrel Draw in U.S. Crude Oil Stocks

New York - December 9, 2013

Platts Survey of Analysts

  • Crude oil stocks down 2.8 million barrels

  • Gasoline stocks up 2.1 million barrels

  • Distillates stocks down 1.3 million barrels

  • Refinery utilization, or run rate, unchanged

U.S. commercial crude oil stocks are expected to have fallen for the second consecutive week, with a draw of 2.8 million barrels during the reporting week ended December 6, a Platts analysis and survey of oil analysts showed Monday.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) will release its weekly report at 4:30 p.m. EST (2030 GMT) Tuesday, while the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is scheduled to release its weekly data at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT) Wednesday.

Despite a draw near 6 million barrels during the week ended November 29, EIA data shows U.S. crude oil stocks at 385.83 million barrels are quite ample at an almost 12% surplus to the five-year average.

Oil Outlooks President Carl Larry chalks up the recent stock draws to U.S. refineries’ higher crude oil runs, which rose to 16.12 million million barrels per day (b/d) for the week ended November 29. This was the first time crude oil runs had been above 16 b/d since September, just prior to the start of autumn maintenance season.

"See what happens when we finally get those refineries running again?" Larry said, noting utilization rates would likely come off slightly, or hold steady, as refiners attempt to capture still-strong crack spreads from domestic crudes.

Analysts surveyed expected refinery utilization to remain flat.

Spot gasoline and ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) cracks to North Dakota Bakken crude oil have come off in the recent past but still represent profitable margins for refiners on both the U.S. Gulf Coast (USGC) and U.S. Atlantic Coast (USAC).

The USGC spot gasoline crack, basis Bakken, was just over $5 per barrel (/b) Friday, down from around $10/b a week prior. USGC ULSD-Bakken cracks were a comparatively steady $24/b Friday.

"I expect the runs to lighten the load a little this week, but for sure we'll see a pullback in imports," Larry said, adding that, should stocks draw by more than 3 million barrels, front-month New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) could push upwards of $100/b.

That said, Larry expects a 2.25 million-barrel draw, which is largely in line with a week-over-week draw shown by the EIA five-year average.

EIA data shows refinery utilization along the USGC seems to have fully rebounded, with the region's 9 million b/d operable capacity running at nearly 95%.

USAC refineries also seems to have fully rebounded, running at 92.4% of their comparatively smaller -- yet important -- 1.3 million b/d of operable capacity.

Meanwhile, U.S. gasoline stocks are expected to have increased 2.1 million barrels the week ended December 6.

"Supply grows as refineries go," Larry said. "We're looking for a slight bounce in demand despite the winter weather woes."

U.S. distillate stocks are expected to have fallen 1.3 million barrels the week ended December 6.

"My model is saying a build, but I’m a rebel," Larry said, adding that he expects distillate stocks to have fallen 1.5 million barrels. "It's going to be hard to top the record production we ran last week and also see a bump higher here in demand."

"There's not a doubt that we're increasing exports and we think that as EU refiners head into maintenance, we're going to increase that number in lieu of building stocks through the winter."

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