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August 13, 2020

As lockdowns eased in May, gasoline demand increased and jet fuel continued to fall

U.S. product supplied of gasoline, distillate, and jet fuel
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) data show that demand (measured by EIA as product supplied) for motor gasoline increased in May as many states began to relax stay-at-home orders, but demand for jet fuel continued to decline because of reduced commercial air travel. EIA’s July Petroleum Supply Monthly (PSM), which includes data through May 2020, shows how crude oil and petroleum product markets continue to be affected by the measures taken to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

From April to May, U.S. product supplied of finished motor gasoline increased by 1.3 million barrels per day (b/d) to 7.2 million b/d, the largest month-over-month increase in volumetric terms in this monthly data series, which dates back to 1945. This increase follows April’s record reduction of 1.9 million b/d. Despite the increase, May 2020 gasoline demand was still 24% lower than the previous May.

Distillate product supplied in May increased by 28,000 b/d, or nearly 1%, compared with the 408,000 b/d (10%) reduction in April. Despite the increase, May distillate demand was down 13% from May 2019. Economic effects associated with the COVID-19 pandemic mitigation efforts have reduced demand for on-road trucking of goods and materials, the primary driver of distillate demand.

Jet fuel demand in May decreased by 95,000 b/d (14%) compared with April to average 596,000 b/d, the lowest jet fuel demand in the United States since 1968 and 67% lower than jet fuel demand in May 2019. The 95,000 b/d decrease in jet fuel demand from April to May marks the third consecutive month in which jet fuel demand fell.

U.S. refinery yield of gasoline, distillate, and jet fuel
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly

Increasing domestic gasoline demand encouraged refiners to shift yields back toward gasoline, partially reversing the shift to higher distillate yields in April. Distillate yields remain relatively high (36% in May 2020), indicating the continued processing of jet fuel into distillate fuel. Jet fuel yields, conversely, have continued to decrease to previously unseen levels as refiners continue to prioritize gasoline and distillate production, likely because of comparatively low jet fuel demand.

Principal contributor: Kevin Hack