(Reuters) - U.S. crude oil and fuel stockpiles fell sharply last week as Hurricane Laura shut offshore production and refining facilities, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
Crude inventories fell by 9.4 million barrels in week to Aug. 28 to 498.4 million barrels, according to data, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.9 million-barrel drop.
That was driven by a record fall in production, which dropped by 1.1 million barrels per day to 9.7 million bpd, its lowest since January 2018, as most U.S. offshore facilities were shut as a precaution ahead of Laura.
Laura made landfall early Thursday, lashing the coast with high winds and causing numerous refineries to shut or reduce output.
Imports at the U.S. Gulf fell by 501,000 bpd to a record low of 781,000 bpd. Net U.S. crude imports fell 655,000 bpd, EIA said.
“It’s a bit hard to determine how much the Gulf Coast crude import figures were impacted by the hurricane,” said Tony Headrick, energy markets analyst at CHS Hedging. “The gasoline draw, which was distributed with draws across the country, was supportive, however gasoline demand did set back week on week.”
Gasoline stocks fell 4.3 million barrels in the week, the EIA said, compared with expectations for a 3 million-barrel drop.
Refinery crude runs fell by 844,000 bpd and refinery utilization rates fell by 5.3 percentage points to 76.7% of total capacity, the EIA said.
Product supplied, a proxy for demand, was lower as well, which may restrain refiners from ramping up production.
“There’s going to be a pileup of crude oil here. I think we’re going to see crude oil put pressure on prices,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho.
Crude prices initially rose but gave back those gains and were lower than before the data release. U.S. futures fell 79 cents, or 1.8%, to $41.97 a barrel, while Brent fell 60 cents to $44.98 a barrel as of 10:49 a.m. ET (1449 GMT).
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 1.7 million barrels in the week, versus expectations for a 1.4 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
Reporting By David Gaffen; Editing by Marguerita Choy
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