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EIA publishes crude oil and refined products balances

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Weekly Petroleum Status Report (WPSR) provides the most comprehensive weekly data available for US crude oil and refined petroleum product balances. The WPSR includes detailed regional and national supply information each week on crude oil, as well as motor gasoline, distillate fuel oil, jet fuel, residual fuel, and propane (the major petroleum products used in the US). Using the most recent WPSR data, the chart above compares current estimates of US gasoline consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic to typical levels for this time of year.

As of the week ending 10 April, the four-week moving average for US gasoline consumption, which EIA measures as product supplied, was 6.4 million bpd, almost 3.0 million bpd less than the previous five-year average. This four-week moving average is the lowest for gasoline product supplied since EIA began recording this information in 1991.

Many industry observers closely follow WPSR data; significant trading in commodity markets occurs immediately after the WPSR’s release every Wednesday at 10:30 ET (except certain weeks with holidays). The information about inventory levels, refinery operations, and product supplied estimates are some of the most timely data series available to assess physical crude oil and petroleum product markets. Such data are particularly relevant to assessing the market impacts of mitigation efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

EIA uses WPSR estimates of product supplied as a proxy for consumption because it measures the removal of petroleum products from the primary supply chain for ultimate delivery to consumers. Analysts should note, however, that the timing of changes in product supplied might not align with end-use consumption patterns because of variations in the timing of when producers report movement of products within the primary supply chain.

Because of the lag between reporting and consuming, for many WPSR data series, assessing four-week moving averages better represents recent market activity rather than focusing on a single week’s estimate. Four-week moving averages are particularly useful for data series such as imports and exports, which affect inventory levels, can vary significantly week to week because of timing issues, and can drive estimates of product supplied.

Beginning in the Wednesday 8 April WPSR release (with data as of 3 April), EIA also began providing a weekly estimate of US crude oil storage capacity utilisation as part of the WPSR release. EIA reports the most recent crude oil storage capacity estimates for the US in total and for each of the five Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PADD) regions separately. The WPSR will include this information for an indeterminate period of time to help stakeholders better assess current market conditions.

To estimate current working storage capacity utilisation, EIA compares weekly reported crude oil stocks (excluding pipeline fill inventory) with the last-reported monthly refinery and tank farm storage capacity, currently as of September 2019. As of 10 April, EIA estimates that the US is utilising 57% of its national storage capacity.

Petroleum is a major source of energy in the US, representing 37% of total energy consumption in 2019. Petroleum and financial analysts rely on the WPSR’s extensive weekly surveys of production, inputs, imports, and inventories of crude oil and petroleum products to assess domestic petroleum supplies as the closest source of real-time information for estimating US petroleum demand.

The WPSR uses six weekly surveys, reported as of the previous Friday morning, to collect data from about 1200 respondents across the primary petroleum supply chain. Respondents include refineries, pipelines, bulk and blending terminals, natural gas processing plants and fractionators, oxygenate producers, and importers. These respondents are a sample selected from all respondents who report to EIA monthly on similar forms for the Petroleum Supply Monthly.

Each survey form collects information on a variety of products (such as motor gasoline, distillate fuel oil, or jet fuel) and supply types, which include inputs, production, stocks, and imports. In instances when a survey form contains data for multiple locations or spans several parts of the country (such as pipelines), volumes are available for each of the five PADDs.

Analysts review and aggregate the data across surveys to determine the overall volumes of crude oil and petroleum products by PADD and supply type. The full report contains a considerable amount of data at both the national and regional level, which EIA will continue to assess in greater detail in the coming weeks as mitigation efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect petroleum industry operations and markets.

Principal contributors: Jen Wade, Rob Merriam

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