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, Oklahoma hub, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
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, rising 100,000 bpd from the all-time high in previous week.
Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 1.4 million bpd to 2.6 million bpd, the lowest level on record, according to the data. Exports inched down 248,000 bpd 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 11:04 a.m. EST (1604 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 bpd as utilization rates rose by 1.2 percentage points to 87.1 percent of total capacity, EIA data showed. On the East Coast, however, refinery utilization fell to 60 percent, 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, versus expectations for a 2 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
(Reuters, Reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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