Exports of feedstocks for the production of gasoline from Asia to the United States have been on a sharp rise recently, rising to the highest in three months as U.S. refiners struggle with tight supply and strong demand.
According to a Bloomberg report, imports of these feedstocks since the start of the month have averaged 86,000 barrels daily, data from Kpler showed. These feedstocks are mixed with gasoline to increase its octane rating—or quality—turning it into a premium product fetching higher prices.
Meanwhile, gasoline prices in the U.S. hit a record-high earlier this month but have now subsided somewhat ahead of the July 4 weekend. Even so, supply remains tight, which suggests prices will not fall much further.
Part of the reason for the tight supply, in addition to tight crude oil supply, is lower refining capacity after U.S. refiners closed some 1 million bpd in capacity during the two pandemic years.
Some have blamed the energy policies of the federal government for the market imbalance in oil and fuels, but Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen deflected the blame, saying in an ABC interview last weekend, “Actually, consumption of gas and fuels are currently at lower levels than pre-pandemic and what’s happened is that production has gone down, refinery capacity has declined in the United States, and oil production has declined.”
Meanwhile, the administration is trying to make oil producers to pump more and refiners to refine more but there does not seem to be a quick fix for the price situation in sight. On the contrary, all the available options carry substantial political risks, especially the “best” solution for high prices, which, as the running industry joke says, is higher prices. Yet higher prices would mean a recession, and no administration wants that.
Exports of fuels from the United States also remain strong, especially to Latin America, the Bloomberg report noted. Since the start of June, the rate of exports has been near the highest since records began in 2016.