Oil Prices Surge, Keep Increases from Tighter Supply Outlook

Oil prices posted slight gains on Thursday to maintain increases from the last session amid the prospect of further supply tightening.

Brent crude oil futures expiring in April traded 0.23% higher at $83.22 per barrel, while the US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures for April delivery climbed 0.22% to $78.08 per barrel.

Analysts said spot prices premium over near-date futures have expanded in recent weeks, pointing to strong demand in the near term.

Oil prices were up 1% on Wednesday, with near-term futures reaching their highest premium in months.

A reduction in US crude stockpiles is also expected to shore up oil prices.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) is set to publish its weekly inventory data later Thursday. The release was delayed by a day following the Presidents Day holiday in the US.

Robust Oil Demand Expected on US Refinery Restarts

The demand for crude has seen improvement as certain refiners in the US return to operations after extensive outages drove the country’s refinery utilization rates to two-year lows.

In the first six weeks of 2024, government data showed that US refinery run rates have dropped around 86% of the 18.3 million barrels per day (bpd) local capacity.

The slide came as the oil industry was struck by unexpected calamities and significant maintenance this year, resulting in a decline in fuel stocks.

British refiner BP plc reportedly plans a March restart of its refinery at Whiting, Indiana, which is the largest in the US Midwest.

Sources familiar with the matter said the company looks to resume operations at its 435,000 bpd unit in the last week of February and bring it to full production next month.

French energy giant TotalEnergies SE is also reportedly done restarting its crude distillation and gasoline-producing units at its refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. Still, operations at the 238,000 bpd refinery remained minimal after a winter storm-driven power outage.

Analysts now estimate US refinery utilization rates for last week at 81.5%, rising from the 80.6% of total capacity in the week earlier.

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