Record U.S. crude stockbuild as refining plummets

U.S. crude oil stockpiles surged by a record of more than 21 million barrels last week as refining plunged to an all-time low as plants remained shut due to the Texas freeze that knocked out power for millions, the Energy Information Administration said.

With refiners unable to process crude, gasoline and distillate inventories also dropped dramatically, especially in the Gulf Coast region where their declines set records.

Oil prices jumped after the data, with U.S. crude futures climbing to $61.41 a barrel, a 2.7% increase as of 10:49 a.m. ET (1549 GMT). Brent rose 2.3% to $64.14 a barrel.

"The market is realizing this is probably a one-off. I think they're shaking it off already," said Phil Flynn, senior analyst at Price Futures Group. "I think everyone is looking at this as a snapshot in time. They expect these inventories to fall dramatically when the exports start moving again and the refiners start running."

Crude inventories rose by 21.6 million barrels, the largest one-week increase ever, in the week to Feb. 26 to 484.6 million barrels. Analysts had anticipated a 932,000-barrel drop.

Refinery crude runs fell by 2.3 million barrels per day in the last week, and the overall refinery utilization rate plunged 12.6 percentage points to an all-time low at 56%, EIA said.

That was largely driven by the slump in U.S. Gulf Coast refining, which dropped to just over 40% of its overall capacity.

The increase in stocks was also driven by a big jump in U.S. crude imports, which rose by a net 1.66 million barrels per day, EIA said.

U.S. gasoline stocks fell by 13.6 million barrels in the week, the most ever, to 243.5 million barrels, the EIA said, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2.3 million-barrel drop.​

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 9.7 million barrels in the week to 143 million barrels, versus expectations for a 3 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 485,000 barrels in the last week, EIA said. (Reporting By David Gaffen Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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