Platts Pre-Report Survey of Analysts’ EIA/API Estimates Suggests a 3.5 Million-Barrel Build in U.S. Crude Oil Stocks


Geoffrey Craig, Platts Oil Futures Editor


New York - April 13, 2015


Platts Survey of Analysts
Crude oil stocks up 3.5 million barrels
Gasoline stocks down 900,000 barrels
Distillate stocks down 150,000 barrels
Refinery utilization, or run rate, up 0.4 percentage point to 90.5%

U.S. commercial crude oil stocks are expected to have increased 3.5 million barrels during the week ended April 10, a Platts survey of analysts showed Monday.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) will release its weekly stocks data at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT) Tuesday. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is scheduled to release its weekly data at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) Wednesday.

The EIA five-year (2010-14) average shows inventories increasing 2.4 million barrels during the comparable reporting week.

However, recent data has defied historical precedents, as evidenced by data from the week ended April 3, when crude oil stockpiles soared 10.949 million barrels. This is more than five times higher than the five-year average for the same reporting period and was the largest weekly build since 2001.

Imports, which surged 869,000 barrels per day (b/d) to 8.2 million b/d, were the key driver behind the nearly 11 million-barrel increase.

Market participants will examine this week's data to see whether imports remain elevated or drop back below 8 million b/d.

Imports have become more cost competitive based on the IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) Brent-WTI differential, which reached almost $13 per barrel (/b) in early March before decreasing steadily, and settled in the $5-6/b range the week ended April 10.

On top of imports, U.S. production growth remains robust despite a plunge in drilling activity. Output ticked up 18,000 b/d to 9.4 million b/d, EIA estimated for the week ended April 3.

An increase in crude oil demand from refiners heading into the peak summer driving season should help stocks draw. However, production does not usually ramp up significantly until May.

Analysts expect the refinery utilization rate to rise 0.4 percentage point to 90.5% of operable capacity.

Phillips 66 restarted its 275,000 b/d Alliance refinery in Belle Chasse, Louisiana, after an unexpected shutdown due to a brief loss of power. The refinery had just completed planned maintenance lasting from January 6 through March 31.

GASOLINE STOCKS EXPECTED TO FALL

U.S. gasoline stocks are expected to have decreased 900,000 barrels the week ended April 10, according to the analysts surveyed.

The EIA five-year average shows inventories falling 2.5 million barrels during the comparable reporting week. At this time of year, winter-grade gasoline gets pushed out of the system in preparation for summer-grade material, causing stocks to drop.

In refinery news, Petrobras the week ended April 10 restarted the fluid catalytic cracker unit, sulfur recovery unit and electric precipitator stack at its 100,000 b/d Pasadena, Texas, refinery.

U.S. distillate stocks are expected to have decreased 150,000 barrels the week ended April 10, compared with the EIA five-year average for the same reporting week showing a 679,000-barrel decrease.

Valero ended planned maintenance the week ended April 10 at its 245,000 b/d refinery in Texas City, Texas. The repairs involved two crude topper units and a hydrotreater.


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