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Report: U.S. fuel demand slumps, while imports show rare increase

Federal data show that total demand for refined products remain below levels from this time in 2020. File photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
1 of 2 | Federal data show that total demand for refined products remain below levels from this time in 2020. File photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 8 (UPI) -- U.S. data released Wednesday show domestic demand declined somewhat last week, with the appetite from consumer fuels still below pre-pandemic levels.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department, reported that the production of gasoline and distillates, a product category that includes diesel, declined during the week ending Friday.

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In terms of demand, the amount of motor gasoline supplied to the market during the reporting period was down 2.8% from year-ago levels. The amount of all refined petroleum products supplied to the market, a barometer for total demand, was down 8.2% from year-ago levels.

But, at 20.1 million barrels per day, the four-week average of total refined products supplied to the market was slightly below the 20.3 million recorded during the similar period in 2020.

Consumer-level fuel prices are moderating, but prices for other essential goods remain elevated, despite the overall decline in inflation. Lower consumer demand, however, could be a result of improved gas mileage or increased sales in electric vehicles.

Refinery activity, meanwhile, improved slightly from week-ago levels, but remains below late-2022 levels of about 90% of full capacity. The nation's refineries still are recovering from the blast of arctic air that pummeled much of the continental United States in late December and January with tornadoes in the U.S. South.

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Further limits are expected as refineries prepare to make a switch to a summer blend of gasoline amid a busy period of seasonal maintenance.

The Oil Price Information Service said that gasoline imports increased during the week, an increase that could add to mounting supply-side challenges given the increased sanctions pressure on refined petroleum products from Russia.

While the United States does not take in Russian products directly, the overall shortage should lead to a reconfiguration of global markets.

Tom Kloza, the founder of the information service, told UPI that imports were among the standouts in the weekly data.

"We were net importers of gasoline and it's been rare to see arrivals top departures," he said. "We also imported over 4.8 million barrels of distillate."

Crude oil prices were on the rise Wednesday, though much of that was the result of pipeline limits in the Middle East that followed the deadly earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

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