U.S. petroleum demand continued to march higher last week and production held steady, leaving crude stockpiles far below historic averages, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Wednesday.

Demand rose 4% week/week to average 22.7 million b/d during the week ended Feb. 11, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The advance was aided by a 4% jump in jet fuel consumption, EIA’s latest Weekly Petroleum Status Report showed.

Travel fuel consumption – including demand for gasoline and diesel — is expected to accelerate further as spring weather arrives and the effects of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus ebb, Rystad Energy analysts said. This could play out domestically and globally, they said.

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“Global aviation staged a substantial uptick in the past week, which could signal further strength in the coming weeks,” said Rystad’s Claudio Galimberti, senior vice president.

Over the past four-week period, demand averaged 22.1 million b/d, up by 12% from the same period a year earlier. Over that same span, motor gasoline product supplied averaged 8.6 million b/d, ahead 8%, while consumption of distillate fuel, including diesel, averaged 4.5 million b/d, up 5%. Jet fuel demand spiked 28% to 1.4 million b/d.

Production last week, meanwhile, was flat from the prior week and flat over the past month at about 11.6 million b/d. This reflects in large part publicly traded producers’ collective efforts to hold steady in maintenance mode amid investors’ calls to divert investments away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy, despite lofty oil prices.

To meet demand, imports over the past month have climbed. U.S. crude imports over the past four weeks averaged about 6.4 million b/d, 9% more than the same four-week period last year.

The inflows helped to curtail a months-long trend of declining inventories, with stocks last week inching higher. Supplies in storage, excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, increased last week by 1.1 million bbl from the previous period. Still, at 411.5 million bbl, inventories were 10% below the five-year average.

The result: Soaring oil prices. West Texas Intermediate crude topped $94/bbl in intraday trading after the EIA data was released Wednesday morning. That put U.S. benchmark prices near a seven-year high and punctuated Wall Street expectations for oil to reach $100 this year.

“As global demand goes from strength to strength and supply remains under threat, the market signals remain strongly bullish,” Galimberti said.

He noted that OPEC and major oil producing countries that partner with the cartel are collectively struggling to ramp up output this year amid political strife and aging infrastructure. This could soon include Russia if it invades Ukraine as it has threatened to do for weeks. U.S. and European sanctions against Russia’s energy sector – threatened by U.S. President Biden in the event of war in Ukraine – could taper Russian oil exports and further cloud the supply/demand picture.

“The supply side of the equation remains highly uncertain,” Galimberti said.   Barclays analyst Amarpreet Singh noted that oil prices have surged more than 20% so far this year – after robust gains in 2021 – “and are trending at the highest level since 2014. We think the rally is rooted in fundamentals with a persistent supply deficit eating into record low inventory levels.”