WASHINGTON, April 20, 2012 - While total petroleum deliveries (a measure of demand) slipped 1.3% in March compared with March 2011, gasoline deliveries were up 3%. This marked the second month in a row gasoline demand increased while total petroleum demand declined. March distillate demand was up very slightly over a year ago to almost 4 million barrels per day, driven by a 5.5% rise in demand for ultra-low sulfur diesel used by trucks.
"The mixed demand picture shows the economy is still laboring to move forward, reflecting relatively weak employment conditions," said API chief economist John Felmy. "However, the rise in gasoline demand occurred in spite of higher gasoline prices, which actually pushed down demand for reformulated gasoline used in urban areas and encouraged more use of public transit."
Supplies of refined products remained ample, with U.S. gasoline production of 9.3 million barrels per day setting a record for any March and for any comparable year-to-date period. Distillate fuel production at 4.4 million barrels per day also set March and year-to-date records. Refinery utilization increased in March, compared with March a year ago. Total refinery inputs rose 2.3% in March.
With U.S. refinery production at high levels and overall domestic demand falling, exports of refined petroleum products increased by 2.6%.
Imports of crude oil and refined products fell in March by 6.6% to average 10.6 million barrels per day. Canadian crude imports rose by 1.9% to average almost 2.16 million barrels per day.
Higher domestic crude oil production in March offset lower crude import levels. Crude oil production rose by 4.7% to average almost 5.9 million barrels per day. Rising North Dakota production at 551 thousand barrels per day in March continued to close in on declining Alaska production of 591 thousand barrels per day.
The number of oil and gas rigs fell from 1,990 in February to 1,979 in March, according to the latest reports from Baker-Hughes Inc.
In March, crude oil stocks at 361.2 million barrels were down 0.4% from March 2011 and up 4.5% from February of this year. Gasoline stocks were up from March 2011 but down slightly from February 2012.
API represents more than 500 oil and natural gas companies, leaders of a technology-driven industry that supplies most of America€™s energy, supports 9.2 million U.S. jobs and 7.7% of the U.S. economy, delivers more than $86 million a day in revenue to our government, and, since 2000, has invested over $2 trillion in U.S. capital projects to advance all forms of energy, including alternatives.
Total domestic petroleum deliveries, a measure of U.S. petroleum demand, dropped 1.3% in March as compared with the same month in 2011. Gasoline deliveries, a measure of consumer gasoline demand, increased 3.0% to 9.0 million barrels per day, the second monthly increase in demand since February 2011.
For the first quarter of 2012, gasoline demand increased only slightly by 0.4% over the first quarter of 2011. This weak demand change is reflective of relatively weak employment conditions. Recent BLS data showed employment growth from February to March, but at a less than expected amount. For both the month and quarter, conventional gasoline demand was up and reformulated demand was down. Reformulated gasoline is mostly used in urban areas and conventional is used in more rural areas. It appears that the higher gasoline prices may have encouraged more use of public transit resulting in less consumption of reformulated gasoline.
Deliveries of distillate fuel, which include both diesel and heating oil, increased by 0.1% to 3.995 million barrels per day for March and declined by 1.2% for the quarter. Ultra-low sulfur diesel deliveries showed growth of 5.5% for the month and 2.4% for the quarter. High-sulfur distillate deliveries were down by 19.4% for the month and 19.8% for the quarter due to the relatively warm weather. Jet fuel deliveries decreased 5.0% for the month and 2.2% for the quarter. Residual fuel deliveries were down 12.6% for the month and 28.9% for the quarter. The "other oils" category declined by 2.2% for the month and 4.2% for the quarter.
Domestic crude oil production rose by 4.7% to average 5.899 million barrels per day in March. Alaskan production was down by 3.3% from last March, at 591 thousand barrels per day. North Dakota produced record levels of crude oil for the State at 551 thousand barrels per day in March. The number of oil and gas rig counts declined from 1990 in February to 1979 in March, according to the latest reports from Baker-Hughes Inc. Imports of crude oil and refined products fell in March by 6.6% to average 10.6 million barrels per day as increased domestic production offset the lower import levels. Canadian crude imports increased by 1.9% in March to average 2.155 million barrels per day.
March€™s total refinery inputs were higher than last year€™s levels by 2.3%. Production of all four major products €" gasoline, distillate, jet fuel and residual fuels was greater than demand for those products, so exports of refined petroleum products increased by 2.6%.
Gasoline production at 9.3 million barrels per day was at a record-high for the month of March and year to date. Distillate fuel production at 4.4 million barrels per day was at a record-high for March and year to date. Utilization rates were up in March this year compared with last year.
In March, crude oil stocks at 361.2 million barrels were down 0.4% from last year and up 4.5% from February levels. Gasoline stocks were up from year-ago and down slightly from month-ago levels. Distillate fuel inventories were down from month-ago and year-ago levels and reached 135.1 million barrels. Jet fuel stocks were up from year ago levels, but down from month ago levels. Stocks of "other oils" were down from year ago and up from month ago levels. Total inventories of all oils were up from month ago and down from year ago levels by about 3.7%.