NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil stockpiles rose last week, after shutdowns stemming from Tropical Storm Harvey knocked refinery use to a seven-year low, the Energy Information Administration said on Thursday.
Refinery utilization rates dropped 16.9 percentage points to 79.7 percent of total capacity, with Gulf Coast refining runs dropping to the lowest level recorded since data started being kept in 1992.
Overall refining runs fell 3.3 million barrels per day to 14.5 million bpd in the week to Sept. 1, EIA data showed. Rates will be slow to rebound as refiners from Corpus Christi, Texas to Lake Charles, Louisiana, were in the process of inspecting and restarting operations.
“Refinery runs were cut as the storm approached; I expect this trend will continue in next week’s stats which will reflect the full storm impact on Texas Gulf Coast refining,” said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.
A number of refineries, offshore platforms and portions of key pipelines had resumed operations as of Wednesday, after Harvey hit the Texas coast on Aug. 25 and knocked out roughly 4.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of refining capacity, or nearly 23 percent of total U.S. capacity.
Some of those refineries have come back online, though many are running at reduced rates. In the most recent week, refining runs for Gulf refineries fell to a rate of 6 million barrels a day, a 35 percent decline, due to Harvey. [reut.rs/2vvsFWe]
The market’s reaction was relatively quiet, as traders expected the data would show Harvey’s effects. U.S. crude futures dropped 24 cents to $48.91 a barrel as of 11:38 a.m. ET (1538 GMT), while gasoline futures slid 1.5 percent to $1.6485 a gallon. Brent futures dropped 13 cents to $54.07 a barrel.
Crude inventories rose 4.6 million barrels last week, compared with analyst expectations for an increase of 4 million barrels.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 797,000 barrels, EIA said.
Gasoline stocks fell 3.2 million barrels, compared with expectations in a Reuters poll for a 5.4 million-barrel drop.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell 1.4 million barrels, versus expectations for a 3.5 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
U.S. crude imports fell last week by 73,000 bpd.
Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar and Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy and David Gregorio