API: U.S. July oil use drops 1.7% to 18 million bopd


API: U.S. July oil use drops 1.7% to 18 million bopd 


NEW YORK -- U.S. petroleum deliveries, a measure of demand, fell by 2.7% in July from a year earlier to the lowest level in any month since September 2008, the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said Friday.

Demand in the world's biggest oil consumer, at 18.062 million bopd, was the weakest for the month of July since 1995, the API said. Year-to-date demand is down 2.3% from the same period in 2011.

Demand for gasoline, the most widely used petroleum product, dropped 3.8% from a year earlier, to 8.624 million bopd, the lowest July level since 1997. Gasoline use in the heart of the peak summer driving season was 2.2% lower than in June. January-July gasoline demand averaged 1.1% below a year earlier, at 8.671 million barrels a day, the API said.

"While retail sales for July are up and housing has improved, the weak petroleum demand numbers are a strong indication the economy is still faltering," said John Felmy, API chief economist. "Unfortunately, achieving robust growth will likely continue to be an uphill climb given the nation's fiscal challenges, business uncertainty, and a European economy in jeopardy of sliding back into recession."

Demand for ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, which is used to power trucks and trains, and increasingly as home-heating oil, rose 4.1% from a year earlier, to 3.45 million barrels a day in July, the API said. Demand for ULSD and other grades of distillate fuels was 4.9% higher than a year earlier, at 3.622 million bpd, but year-to-date total distillate use is off 0.6% from the same period in 2011.

Kerosine-based jet fuel use fell 0.8% in July from a year ago, to 1.455 million bpd, while demand for heavy residual fuel, used in power plants and industrial burners, dropped 7.1% year-on-year, to 294,000 bpd.

Despite weak demand, refinery output was high, with gasoline output near 9 million bpd, the third-highest level for July on record, but 2% below a year earlier.

Distillate production at nearly 4.8 million bpd set a record for July and was the third highest monthly level ever, API said. Distillate output was 2.6% above the year-earlier level. Output of 4.5 million bpd in the January-July period also set a record and was 4.3% above the same period in 2011.

Inputs to refineries averaged nearly 16 million bopd in July, the highest monthly level thus far in 2012 and 2.3% above a year earlier. Year-to-date inputs of 15.3 million barrels a day were up 3.4% from the same period last year.

Production of all four major products--gasoline, distillate, jet fuel and residual fuel--was greater than demand for those products. As a result, petroleum imports decreased and exports increased. Total imports of crude and refined products fell by 9.6% to average 10.4 million bopd in July. Exports of refined products increased 11.1% to a record high for July of 3.244 million bpd, and year-to-date exports were up 14% compared with the same period in 2011.

Refineries operated at 92.7% of capacity in July, the second month in a row above 90%.

Crude oil production rose 13.6% year on year in July to 6.225 million bpd, the highest July level since 1998. Year-to-date output averaged near the July level and was up 11.9% from the same period in 2011.

Crude oil stocks rose 5.1% in July from a year earlier, but dropped 4.3% from June, to end the month at 365.8 million bbl.

Stocks of all major products were down from July 2011 levels. But gasoline stocks rose 1.9% from June and distillate stocks increased by 5% on a month to month basis.

Dow Jones Newswires

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