While total petroleum deliveries (a measure of demand) slipped 1.3% in March compared with March 2011, gasoline deliveries were up 3%, according to the latest report from the American Petroleum Institute (API). This marked the second month in a row gasoline demand increased while total petroleum demand declined.
March distillate demand was up very slightly over a year ago to almost 4 million barrels per day, driven by a 5.5% rise in demand for ultra-low sulfur diesel used by trucks.
The mixed demand picture shows the economy is still laboring to move forward, reflecting relatively weak employment conditions. However, the rise in gasoline demand occurred in spite of higher gasoline prices, which actually pushed down demand for reformulated gasoline used in urban areas and encouraged more use of public transit.—API chief economist John Felmy
US gasoline production of 9.3 million barrels per day set a record for any March and for any comparable year-to-date period. Distillate fuel production at 4.4 million barrels per day also set March and year-to-date records. Refinery utilization increased in March, compared with March a year ago. Total refinery inputs rose 2.3% in March.
With US refinery production at high levels and overall domestic demand falling, exports of refined petroleum products increased by 2.6%. Imports of crude oil and refined products fell in March by 6.6% to average 10.6 million barrels per day. Canadian crude imports rose by 1.9% to average almost 2.16 million barrels per day.
Higher domestic crude oil production in March offset lower crude import levels. Crude oil production rose by 4.7% to average almost 5.9 million barrels per day. Rising North Dakota production at 551 thousand barrels per day in March continued to close in on declining Alaska production of 591 thousand barrels per day.