U.S. crude oil stocks fell unexpectedly last week as net imports fell to record lows, despite production growing to all-time highs and abundant inventories at the Cushing, Okla., hub, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Feb. 27.
After five consecutive weekly builds, nationwide crude inventories fell 8.6 million barrels in the week to Feb. 22, compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 2.8 million barrels.
However, crude stocks at Cushing, the delivery hub for U.S. crude futures rose 1.6 million barrels to 46.7 million barrels, the highest since December 2017.
Crude production continued to grow to a record high of 12.1 million barrels per day (bbl/d), rising 100,000 bbl/d from the all-time high in the previous week.
Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 1.4 million bbl/d to 2.6 million bbl/d, the lowest level on record, according to the data. Exports inched down 248,000 bbl/d from the previous week's record high.
The large crude inventory decline "was the result of a plunge in crude oil imports, along with crude oil exports hovering near a record level, over 3 million barrels per day," said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.
U.S. crude futures extended gains after the data was released and traded up $1.78 at $57.28 a barrel by 10:04 a.m. CST (16:04 GMT).
"The inventory decline was notable as the refinery run rate remains subdued due to some seasonal turnarounds," Kilduff said.
Refinery crude runs rose 179,000 bbl/d as utilization rates rose by 1.2 percentage points to 87.1% of total capacity, EIA data showed. On the East Coast, however, refinery utilization fell to 60%, the lowest level since 2012.
Gasoline stocks fell by 1.9 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.7 million-barrel drop.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 304,000 barrels, vs. expectations for a 2 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
The EIA reported crude inventories rose 9.9 million barrels in the week to April 26 to 470.6 million, compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 1.5 million barrels.
Overall crude oil stocks, not including the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, fell to 466.6 million barrels from their highest levels in 19 months.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Okla., delivery hub for U.S. crude futures rose by 1.8 million barrels to 47.8 million barrels, their highest since December 2017, the EIA data revealed.