September 11, 2019 / 3:24 PM / 5 days ago

U.S. crude inventories drop to lowest in nearly a year

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell last week to the lowest in nearly a year, with Cushing inventories falling for the tenth straight week, as refineries raised output and imports fell, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Crude inventories fell for a fourth straight week, decreasing 6.9 million barrels in the week to Sept. 6, more than double analysts’ expectations for a 2.7 million-barrel drawdown.

At 416.1 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories were at their lowest since October 2018, and about 2% below the five-year average for this time of year, the EIA said.

“A tick higher in refinery runs and a dip lower in imports has yielded a solid draw to crude inventories - now down 69 million barrels, or 14%, from the high of the year in early June,” Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData.

“Crude exports once again have come in above 3 million barrels per day - which is starting to look like the norm now that Permian pipelines have started up to Corpus Christi.”

Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 413,000 barrels per day (bpd), while exports alone rose by 234,000 bpd to 3.3 million bpd last week.

A shale boom, led by production increases in the Permian basin, has helped make the United States the biggest oil producer in the world.

New pipelines including Plains All American LP’s Cactus II and EPIC Midstream Holdings LLC’s line have begun transporting crude from the Permian, the biggest U.S. oil basin, to the Gulf Coast over the past month.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub fell 798,000 barrels to 39.3 million barrels, their lowest since November 2018.

Refinery crude runs rose by 114,000 bpd, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates rose by 0.3 percentage point to 95.1% of total capacity.

Gasoline stocks fell by 682,000 barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 847,000-barrel drop. Gulf Coast weekly gasoline stockpiles fell to the lowest since September 2017.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 2.7 million barrels, versus expectations for a 72,000-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.

Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York, additional reporting by Laila Kearney

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