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US demand for petroleum up 2.3% in 2010

Total US petroleum deliveries (a measure of demand) were up 1.2% in December 2010 against the same month in 2009 and up 2.3% for 2010 compared with 2009, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API). Both gasoline and diesel deliveries were up for full year 2010 over 2009, gasoline by 0.6% and distillates by 4.8%. Also, US refiners set a record for annual gasoline production.

The robust distillate numbers suggest the nation’s industrial sector continues to rebound. They were up both month over month and year over year. While consumer demand for gasoline was weak during this winter holiday season, higher prices and bad weather might have kept people off the roads. The other side of that is overall retail sales were up, led by a big 12-percent increase in e-commerce sales. People were doing more shopping online, and that, in turn, spurred more truck shipping and an increase in deliveries of ultra low sulfur diesel—a subset of total distillates and the kind of fuel the on-road trucks use—by more than 16 percent this December over last.

—API chief economist John Felmy

US refinery activity increased, finishing a strong year. Total inputs to crude distillation units moved 1.5% in December against last, and refinery utilization increased by 4.4% from December 2009 to 85.7%. In addition to yearly average motor gasoline production reaching an all-time high, yearly average distillate fuel production was at its second highest level ever (after 2008).

Domestic crude oil production rose by 1.3% in December over December 2009, reaching 5.52 million barrels a day. Lower-48 crude production was up while Alaska production slipped slightly.

December 2010 crude oil and product imports, at 10.6 million barrels per day were down from November but slightly up from December 2009, driven by increases in crude imports. Crude imports at 8.8 million barrels per day were up by 8.1% while total product imports, at 1.8 million barrels per day, were down by 24.3%.

US crude stocks in December 2010 had steep yet seasonal declines, down by 6.5% from November but up by 2.2% from December 2009. At 332.2 million barrels, this was the highest crude stock level since December 1994. All products showed stock declines in December compared with November 2010. Total motor gasoline stocks were 1.3% lower while distillate stocks were 0.4 percent lower.



It seems that local consumption is going up at about 1%/year more than local production. This should translate into a net 1+%/year increase in fuel imports for 2010. As USA will start pulling of the current recession in 2011, the oil deficit for 2011 could increase by 2% to 5%. At an expected average price of $90 to $100/barrel it will not help the nation trade deficit.

Nick Lyons

Your classic good news/bad news scenario. Economy has pulled out of its nosedive, has leveled off and is starting to climb again (hooray!); increased demand worldwide will pull oil prices up (bummer) and increase drag on the ascent.

Gotta keep working on the transition to alternatives.

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