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.
Reduced imports of crude lead to an EIA report that rattles the market.
The U.S. Energy Department said on Feb. 28 it is offering up to 6 MMbbl of sweet crude oil from the national emergency reserve in a sale mandated by previous laws to raise funds to modernize the facility.
Crude inventories in the Permian Basin fell to 15 million barrels (MMbbl) in the week to Feb. 19, the lowest since October and down from a record 22 MMbbl in November. That glut had doubled in size from 11 MMbbl in June, according to the Genscape data.