Feds: Petroleum refineries running at record levels

American refineries are handling a higher volume of oil than at any point on record, government researchers said Friday. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), gross inputs at U.S. refineries totaled more than 17 million barrels per day each of the last four weeks, a level not seen since EIA began tracking the metric in 1990. The rolling four-week average is higher than any time in the last five years, EIA reported


EIA attributed the bump in refining to low crude oil prices and a high demand for gasoline worldwide, as well as an increase in refinery capacity and utilization rates. It's the second summer in a row EIA has observed record high processing levels.

Overall, demand for gasoline in the United States is up almost 3 percent for the first five months of 2015, and it jumped similarly around the world. The U.S. has supplied 2.5 percent more petroleum so far this year than last, and net exports are up 19 percent through May.

Taken together, the profits refiners can make by processing crude oil into fuel — a metric called the “crack spread” — are higher now than they've been since September 2008.

Refinery volume peaks during the summer months when demand is high, EIA said. Last month, the administration projected refinery runs to drip toward the end of summer and into the fall, but officials expect new highs around the 17-million barrel per day mark next year.