Despite recent gains, nation’s crude oil stockpile is still less than a year ago

While the Energy Information Administration reported last week large gains to liquid petroleum stockpiles in the U.S., one energy analyzing firm in Houston says the levels are still weaker than last year’s level.

Stratas Advisors, based in Houston indicated the crude stocks moved up by 6.81 million barrels while most analysts expected a decline of more than 2 million barrels. There were gains in other refined fuels and while gasoline inventories sank, distillate inventories jumped upward. But the combined petroleum stockpile is still weaker than last year’s level even though it exceeds the 5-year average level.

What’s it mean?

“We think refinery utilization will decline seasonally,” stated Stratas Advisors. “Yet the high 90%+ range should remain strong enough to continue adding product to storage and keeping crude inventories lower than otherwise expected with near-record levels of production coming from the field.”

The forecast came as WTI crude prices traded at $65.72/bbbl, a nearly $2 a barrel drop over the close of the week earlier in the month.

On the natural gas side of things, the firm indicated that despite strong production and “supra-normal imports from Canada,”gas storage refill levels will be less.

“We are more sure this week we will be entering the winter heating season with a storage deficit—-which may set up fuel buyers for strong price spikes in the depth of the January and ” if the national weather predictions hold true.