Low Gas Prices Drive Petroleum Demand

This year’s March deliveries were the highest since 2008

WASHINGTON -- Petroleum demand saw its best March in eight years.

Gasoline nozzle

Total petroleum deliveries—a measure of demand—rose 0.4% in March from a year ago to average 19.3 million barrels per day, according to a monthly statistical report from the American Petroleum Institute (API). These were the highest March deliveries since 2008. Total motor gasoline deliveries—a measure of consumer demand—rose 2.2% from March 2015. Distillate deliveries fell 11.3% to average just less than 3.6 million barrels per day.

“Historically low gasoline prices continued to drive strong demand for gasoline in March,” said Erica Bowman, chief economist for API. “In fact, demand for gasoline in March was the highest ever recorded for the month.”

Other findings from API’s monthly report:

  • At less than 9 million barrels per day, U.S. crude oil production decreased by 6.8% from March 2015 but remained the second highest March production level since 1986. Natural gas liquids production in March averaged nearly 3.4 million barrels per day, which was the highest level for the month on record.
  • U.S. total petroleum imports in March averaged nearly 10 million barrels per day. This was the highest total petroleum imports level for any month since September 2013.
  • At an average of 9.7 million barrels per day, production of gasoline in March was the highest ever for the month, up 1.6% from March 2015. Production of distillate fuel in March fell 1.2% from year-ago levels to average 4.8 million barrels per day but remained the second highest March output level on record.
  • Refinery gross inputs rose by 2.8% from last year to a record high for the month at 16.3 million barrels per day. Production of all four major products—gasoline, distillate, jet fuel and residual fuels—was higher than deliveries for those products, so refined petroleum products were exported. Exports of refined petroleum products were up from the prior year. The refinery capacity utilization rate averaged 89.5% in March. API’s latest refinery operable capacity was 18.125 million barrels per day, up 341 thousand barrels per day from last year’s capacity of 17.874 million barrels per day.
  • Crude oil stocks ended in March at 530.1 million barrels—the highest inventory level for the month since 1930. Crude stocks rose by 55.3 million barrels, or up 11.6% from the prior year. Stocks of total motor gasoline rose 5.4% from last year to 243.9 million barrels in March. These were the highest stocks for the month since 1982. Distillate fuel oil stocks rose 27.9% from the same period last year to end at 164.1 million barrels—the highest March inventory level since 1981. Jet fuel stocks rose 18.8% from the previous year to end at 44.2 million barrels. Stocks of “other oils” rose from year-ago levels.

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