Consumption of U.S. petroleum climbed last week, driven by demand for jet and distillate fuels, while production ticked up and inventories dropped, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Wednesday. 

The boost in consumption extended a summer-long trend — a few weekly interruptions aside — despite mounting coronavirus cases that forced downward revisions to oil demand and production forecasts in recent days.

For the week ended Aug. 13, overall demand increased 10% week/week and eclipsed the same calendar week of 2019 — pre-pandemic — by 2%, EIA’s Weekly Petroleum Status Report showed.

Gasoline consumption, however, declined. It totaled 9.3 million b/d last week, down 97,000 b/d from the prior week and 200,000 b/d below the average level from the prior six weeks, analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC said in a note. The analysts cited the drop as “a possible signal” that rising case counts “are negatively impacting demand.”

The International Energy Agency (IEA) last week said it expects global oil consumption to rise by 5.3 million b/d this year over 2020 levels and average 96.2 million b/d. The 2021 forecast, however, was down from IEA’s July estimate of 5.4 million b/d. The Paris-based agency cited mounting virus cases driven by the fast-spreading Delta variant. It forecasted that demand would rise another 3.2 million b/d next year.

Separately, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) maintained its forecasted demand level in a report last week. It said oil demand would rise by 5.95 million b/d this year, or 6.6%, unchanged from a July forecast. In 2022, consumption is expected to advance 3.28 million b/d, OPEC said, also unchanged.

However, the cartel emphasized emerging pandemic threats that could alter its outlook. It cited the Delta variant as well as emerging concerns about the potential for new forms of the virus as it evolves.

“The path of the COVID-19 pandemic will be the overarching factor impacting the near-term pace of the recovery,” with the “potential emergence of new variants and/or mutations posing a particular risk,” OPEC officials said.

In its August Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), EIA cited global demand uncertainty and lowered its predicted total world petroleum production average to 98.9 million b/d in the second half of 2021 from a forecast of 99.4 million b/d in its July STEO. “We forecast that global petroleum production in 2022 will average 101.8 million b/d — 20,000 b/d less than we forecast in the July STEO,” EIA researchers said.

OPEC and its allies, aka OPEC-plus, recently agreed to raise output by another 400,000 b/d monthly — following earlier increases — until it unwinds all of the cuts made amid the pandemic in 2020. The cartel slashed output by 9.7 million b/d last year. But EIA said the increase was less than it expected, an indication of a recently muddied demand outlook.

Meanwhile, in the United States, demand has proven strong overall this summer, the dip in gasoline consumption last week notwithstanding.

Over the past four weeks, total products supplied — EIA terminology for demand — averaged 20.8 million b/d, up 13% from the same period last year. In that span, motor gasoline consumption averaged 9.5 million b/d, up 8%, while distillate fuel products supplied averaged 4.0 million b/d, up 11%. Jet fuel demand shot up 56% to 1.6 million b/d.

On the production side, EIA said crude output last week inched ahead by 100,000 b/d from the prior week to 11.4 million b/d. But production was 1.7 million b/d below the 2020 peak reached last March before the pandemic took hold.

EIA said U.S. commercial oil inventories last week — excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — decreased by 3.2 million bbl from the previous week. At 435.5 million bbl, crude inventories are 6% below the five-year average.