By DAVID BIRD
NEW YORK -- US oil demand inched up 0.3% in April from a year earlier, despite a sharp 3.9% drop in gasoline use, the American Petroleum Institute said Friday.
Oil use of 18.393 million bpd was the second lowest in April over the past 17 years, the trade group said.
Demand for gasoline, the most widely used petroleum product in the world's biggest oil consumer, fell to a 13-year April low of 8.472 million bpd.
Gains in demand for distillate fuel [diesel/heating oil] and catch-all other oils, which include feedstocks for petrochemical plants, offset the fall in gasoline use to nudge total demand higher.
"For the second month demand is up from a year ago," API chief economist John Felmy said in the data report. "Consumer confidence has improved and distillate deliveries are up, but gasoline demand remains weak."
US crude oil output climbed 15.9% from a year earlier to a 21-year April high of 7.264 million bpd. Output was up 1.7% from March.
Crude oil production topped 7 million bpd for a sixth straight month, as new technology such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, unlocks oil deposits trapped in shale rock in several areas of the nation.
Higher domestic output has reduced the need for imported oil and boosted oil inventories.
Crude oil imports fell 6.7% from a year earlier to a 16-year April low of 8.016 million bpd, the trade group said.
End-April crude oil stocks of 388.9 million bbl were 3.2% above the year-earlier level and the highest for the month since 1981.
Refiners boosted crude oil processing by 2.3% from a year earlier, to 14.95 million bpd. Gasoline output of near 8.9 million bpd was the third highest in April on API records beginning in 1945. Distillate output was the most ever in April, at 4.447 million bpd.
Exports of refined products rose 1% from March, to 3.133 million bpd, but were 4% below a year earlier.
Imports of refined products dropped 5% from a year earlier, to 1.939 million bpd. Total imports crude and refined products fell 6.4% from a year earlier, to 9.955 million bpd. The drop below 10 million barrels was just the third recorded in any month in last 15 years, the API said.
Gasoline stocks ended April at 218 million bbl, down 1.4% from March, but 3.6% higher than a year earlier. Distillate stocks, at 115.7 million bbl, rose 0.8% from March, but were 7.1% lower than in April 2012, and at a five-year low for the month.
Dow Jones Newswires