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The Diesel Crunch Is Finally Causing Demand Destruction

The Diesel Crunch Is Finally Causing Demand Destruction

  • Diesel inventories slumped to their lowest level for the time of the year since 1951.
  • signs have emerged that weaker demand in the past weeks may have slowly started to rebuild diesel inventories.
  • Refiners are processing more crude oil to capture the still high refining margins.

High prices seem to have started to weigh on diesel demand in the United States, where distillate inventories – comprising diesel and heating oil – have been slowly rising over the past few weeks.    American distillate inventories are still below the five-year average, but the gap in stocks compared to previous years has slowly started to narrow, suggesting that high prices are hitting demand, while encouraging more refinery output thanks to solid refining margins.

In this week’s inventory report, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said that distillate stocks rose by 1.7 million barrels in the week to November 18, with production rising to an average of 5.1 million barrels per day (bpd). Distillate fuel inventories are still about 13% below the five-year average for this time of year, but two months ago, they were more than 20% below the five-year average for that time of the year.

Earlier this autumn, U.S. distillate stocks slumped to their lowest level for this time of the year since 1951, just as the heating season started and a few months ahead of the EU embargo on Russian oil product imports, which goes into effect in February.

Now signs have emerged that weaker demand in the past weeks may have slowly started to rebuild diesel inventories, contrary to seasonal trends. Distillate inventories in the U.S. rose by 3 million barrels in the six weeks to November 18, according to estimates by Reuters’ senior market analyst John Kemp based on EIA data.

 

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