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Short-Term Energy Outlook

Release Date: January 14, 2020  |  Next Release Date: February 11, 2020  |  Full Report    |   Text Only   |   All Tables   |   All Figures

Petroleum Products

Gasoline prices: The front-month futures price of reformulated blendstock for oxygenate blending (RBOB, the petroleum component of gasoline used in many parts of the country) settled at $1.65 per gallon (gal) on January 9, 2020, up 8 cents/gal since December 2 (Figure 2). The RBOB–Brent crack spread (the difference between the price of RBOB and the price of Brent crude oil) decreased by 3 cents/gal to settle at 10 cents/gal during the same period.

Figure 2: Historical RBOB front-month futures prices and crack spread

RBOB prices kept pace with rising crude oil prices in December, which left the crack spread nearly unchanged. EIA estimates that December gasoline inventories were the highest for any December since 1981. Gasoline consumption typically increases from November to December but, in 2019, December gasoline consumption declined from November and was less than the December five-year (2014–18) average, which likely contributed to what EIA estimates was the second largest December stock build on record in data going back to 1981.

Ultra-low sulfur diesel prices: The ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) front-month futures price settled at $1.95/gal on January 9, 2020, an increase of 6 cents/gal higher from December 2, 2019. The ULSD–Brent crack spread (the difference between the price of ULSD and the price of Brent crude oil) decreased 4 cents/gal to settle at 39 cents/gal during the same period (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Historical ULSD front-month futures price and crack spread

The ULSD-Brent crack spread remained wider than average through December but narrowed sharply in early January after inventories rose 14 million barrels in the two weeks ending January 3, 2020. Distillate inventories had declined to lower than the five-year minimum in October and November, providing support to crack spreads. However, mild weather helped to reduce distillate consumption in December to what EIA estimates would be the lowest December consumption since 2012. The lower consumption also contributed to what EIA estimates is the largest December distillate stock build on record in data going back to 1945.

U.S. Petroleum and Other Liquids
  2018201920202021
Crude Oil prices (dollars per barrel)
WTI Spot Average 65.0657.0259.2562.03
Brent Spot Average 71.1964.3664.8367.53
Imported Average 61.3457.8255.8459.48
Refiner Average Acquisition Cost 64.4858.9458.3761.03
Retail prices including taxes (dollars per gallon)
Regular Gasoline 2.732.602.632.63
Diesel Fuel 3.183.063.113.12
Heating Oil 3.013.023.103.14
Production (million barrels per day)
Crude Oil 10.9912.2413.3013.71
Natural Gas Plant Liquids 4.374.845.365.54
Fuel Ethanol 1.051.031.031.03
Biodiesel 0.1210.1190.1350.158
Consumption (million barrels per day)
Motor Gasoline 9.339.289.299.23
Distillate Fuel Oil 4.154.064.114.11
Hydrocarbon Gas Liquids 3.013.163.333.45
Jet Fuel 1.711.751.771.78
Total Consumption 20.5020.4820.6420.71
Primary Assumptions (percent change from previous year)
U.S. Real GDP Growth 2.92.32.01.8
Heating Degree Days 11.80.1-1.8-0.7
Distillate-weighted Industrial Production 2.5-0.2-0.8-0.4

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