Refineries in the United States are operating at record high capacity and utilization levels, a new report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.
According to the EIA, gross inputs to U.S. refineries exceeded 17 million barrels per day every week for the past four weeks, the highest level since the EIA began publishing weekly data in 1990.
The report, published on Friday, found that the rolling four-week average of U.S. gross refinery inputs exceeded the previous five-year range every week of the year so far.
The record high gross inputs are tied to both higher refinery capacity and higher utilization rates, the EIA said.
“Lower crude oil prices and strong demand for petroleum products, primarily gasoline, both in the United States and globally, have led to favorable margins that encourage refinery investment and high refinery runs,” the agency said.
Total U.S. motor gasoline product supplied rose by 2.9 percent during the first five months of 2015, thanks to growing demand in Europe and India,.
Total U.S. petroleum product supplied jumped 2.5 percent during the first five months of the year compared with 2014.
Global markets are also benefiting from strong U.S. refining performance with net exports climbing 19 percent from January to May.
Since early April, U.S. refinery utilization has consistently stayed above 90 percent, largely thanks to elevated runs at Gulf Coast and Midwest refineries, the EIA said.
During that time, East Coast and Rocky Mountain utilization have also remained consistently high.
Despite the ongoing unplanned outage at ExxonMobil’s refinery in Torrance, California, utilization on the West Coast exceeded 90 percent during the past three weeks.
The last time all regions exceeded 90 percent utilization in the same month was all the way back in September 2006, the EIA said.
These high utilization rates, combined with an increased U.S. refinery capacity of 18.0 million bpd, prompted the record high gross inputs.
“U.S. refinery runs tend to peak in the second and third quarters of the year when demand for gasoline is greater because of increased driving in the summer,” the EIA noted.
In its July Short-Term Energy Outlook, the EIA estimates that refinery runs will average 16.7 million barrels per day from April through September.
Refinery runs are expected decline slightly in the fourth quarter to 16.2 million bpd before tumbling to 15.8 million bpd in the first quarter of 2016.
Following the winter period of lower demand and refinery maintenance, the EIA expects U.S. refinery runs will reach a new record next summer with runs averaging 16.9 million bpd in third quarter of 2016.