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U.S. crude oil inventories rose as utilization drops

U.S. crude oil inventories rose for the ninth week in a row, surging to their most since May 2021, as refiners ran less oil during a strong maintenance season, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed on Thursday.

Crude inventories rose by 7.6 MMbbls to about 479 MMbbls  in the week to Feb. 17, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2.1 MMbbls rise.Another steep crude oil supply adjustment in the EIA data added to the build, said Phil Flynn, senior analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. Last week, a large adjustment contributed to a 16.3 MMbbls rise in crude supplies.

Refinery crude runs dropped by 17,000 bpd, and refinery utilization rates fell by 0.6% percentage point to 85.9% of total capacity.

"Refinery maintenance is adding to these crude builds," Flynn said, adding that crude runs should increase as oil refiners increase utilization.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for futures rose by 700,000 bbls last week to 40.41MMbbls, their highest level since June 2021.

Oil prices pared gains slightly after the data, with U.S. crude futures trading just over $1/bbl at $74.99 at 11:39 a.m. EST (1639 GMT).

Gasoline stocks fell 1.9 MMbbls to about 240.1 MMbbls, the EIA said, compared with analysts' expectations for a 110,000-barrel rise.​ Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose 2.7 MMbbls vs. forecasts for a 1.1 MMbbls draw. At 121.9 MMbbls, distillate supplies were at their highest since January 2022.

Net U.S. crude imports fell by 1.4 MMbpd, the EIA said, while production held steady at its highest level since April 2020 for a third week in a row at 12.3 MMbpd.

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