Total US petroleum deliveries, used to measure demand, rose slightly in August to 19.7 million bpd compared with August a year ago, with demand for gasoline and distillates moving in opposite directions, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API).
Gasoline demand fell by 1.3% to a 10-year low for the month, while distillate demand rose by 10.8%. On a year-to-date basis, gasoline demand was 2% lower than in 2010.
"The US economy is still struggling," said API chief economist John Felmy. "Retail sales are weak, and we're seeing a reflection of that in the gasoline demand numbers.
The rise in distillate demand accords with data that suggest modest growth in manufacturing, but consumers remain cautious, he added.
Despite the dip in gasoline demand, US refinery production of gasoline was up 0.6% over August 2010 and was higher for the first eight months of the year than any previous January-through-August period.
Production of distillate fuel and jet fuel were also up, with distillate fuel production setting a record for any August and for any year to date. Refinery inputs remained over 15,000 bpd for the third month in a row but were lower than in August a year ago.
At 1.6 million bpd, total imports of petroleum products were down from last year by 11% to a 14-year low for August.
Crude imports fell by 1.8% to 9.4 million bpd. Canadian imports of crude oil showed a 7% jump from last year to average 2.1 million bpd for August.
Crude oil production fell to a three-year low for the month, slipping to its lowest level in 2011 to 5.1 million bpd. However, year to date, crude production was higher by 1.1% compared with 2010.
Production in the lower-48 states was down by 6.3%. According to Baker Hughes Inc., total oil and gas rigs jumped by 57 to 1,957, a three-year high.
For the third time this year, crude oil stocks showed year-over-year declines, yet this stock level was still the second highest for any August since 1990, after August 2010.
Total stocks of oil and products were down 6.5% from last year and down 0.7% from June 2011 levels.
Motor gasoline stocks fell on a monthly and yearly basis to 210.0 million barrels, but they still were the second-highest for the month of August since 1998.
Distillate fuel stocks rose from July levels but were down from last August by 8.0%, according to the API.