Diesel and gasoline still remain cheaper in weektoweek comparisons with 2015 prices EIA39s data indicates Photo by Sean KilcarrFleet Owner

Diesel and gasoline still remain cheaper in week-to-week comparisons with 2015 prices, EIA's data indicates. (Photo by Sean Kilcarr/Fleet Owner)

Fuel prices up, along with oil imports

U.S. gross oil imports increased for the first time in six years during first half of 2016, according to EIA.

The national average retail pump price for both diesel and gasoline increased this week across the U.S., according to data tracked by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), mirroring price upticks for both fuels in every region of the country.

The agency added that gross crude oil imports into the U.S. increased during the first half of 2016; the first jump in U.S. oil imports in six years. 

Diesel increased 5.6 cents this week to national average of $2.445 per gallon, EIA noted, though that is 11.1 cents cheaper per gallon compared to the same week in 2015.

Prices for diesel increased in every region of the country, climbing the most in the Gulf Coast; up 6.7 cents to $2.317 per gallon, though that per-gallon price for diesel in the cheapest in the U.S.

Diesel prices on the West Coast with California excluded also spiked by 6.7 cents to $2.591 per gallon; with California included, however, prices increased 5.4 cents to $2.712 per gallon.

The Midwest also witnessed a big hike in diesel prices, too, EIA said; up 6.1 cents to $2.417 per gallon.

The national average for gasoline went up 2.7 cents to $2.272 per gallon this week, according to the agency’s data, though that is 6.5 cents per gallon cheaper when compared to the same week in 2015.

Like diesel, gasoline prices were up in every region of the country except the West Coast with California included, which witnessed a 4/10ths of a penny decline to $2.675 per gallon. However, with California excluded, prices went up 4/10ths of a penny to $2.459 per gallon.

The biggest regional hikes in gasoline prices this week occurred in the Midwest, up 4.8 cents to $2.221 per gallon, and the Gulf Coast, up 3.1 cents to $2.038 per gallon.

This week also marked the first time gasoline prices on the East Coast were higher in year-over-year comparisons, with EIA data showing East Coast gasoline prices – comprised of the Lower and Central Atlantic states along with New England – were up 2.1 to 4.7 cents per gallon compared to the same week in 2015.

The agency also noted that during the first half of 2016, U.S. gross crude oil imports increased by 528,000 barrels per day (b/d), or 7%, compared to the first half of 2015 – reversing a multiyear trend of declining imports due to higher domestic oil production.

Oil imports along the East Coast, which are reported as imports to Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PADD) 1, were up the most, rising by 244,000 b/d or 41% compared with the first half of 2015, with crude oil imports also increased in all other regions of the country except the Rocky Mountains.

On a national basis, shipments from Nigeria, Iraq, and Canada contributed most to the increase in oil imports as U.S. crude production slid from an average of 9.5 million b/d in the first half of 2015 to 9 million b/d in the first half of 2016.

EIA added that changes in crude oil price spreads, which may have been influenced by the lifting of U.S. export restrictions on crude oil in December last year, as well as logistical issues, were significant factors in the rise of U.S. imports during the first half of 2016.

First, the narrowing differences between certain U.S. crudes and international benchmarks provided an incentive for increased imports by refiners in areas where imported crudes now had a delivered cost advantage relative to domestic crudes of comparable quality, the agency said.

Second, pipelines continued displacing rail for transporting oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale, EIA noted, with pipeline transit rising from roughly 35% at the beginning of 2015 to nearly 57% by June 2016, with rail inversely declining from roughly 60% to about 30%.

Pipeline transportation is significantly less expensive than rail, the agency pointed out, and as a result, logistical constraints and costs that had previously depressed wellhead crude prices were alleviated, reducing downward price pressure that had previously made Bakken crude especially attractive for certain refiners, particularly on the East Coast.

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