WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Nearby delivery oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange and Brent crude traded on the Intercontinental Exchange plunged into market-on-close trade Tuesday, with the West Texas Intermediate May contract expiring below $63 barrel (bbl) as market participants look to weekly oil inventory data in the United States for an update on the latest supply and demand disposition of the world's largest oil consumer.
The American Petroleum Institute will release its weekly inventory report at 4:30 p.m. EDT, followed by official data from the Energy Information Administration at 10:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday. Markets overwhelmingly expect commercial crude oil inventories to fall by 2.4 million bbl during the week ended April 16 after stocks dropped nearly 6 million bbl the previous week. Should crude stocks draw as expected, it would bring inventories in line with the five-year average. Gasoline stockpiles are expected to rise by 100,000 bbl from the previous week and stocks of distillates are seen falling by 400,000 bbl.
DTN demand data show U.S. diesel consumption increased 4.2% from the previous week and now stands about 5% above 2019 level while gasoline demand gained 0.4% week-on-week, keeping in line with the pre-COVID seasonal uptrend.
Meanwhile, refinery run rates likely rose 0.8% from the previous week to 85%, the highest since March 2020.
Earlier in the session, media airwaves were hit with the reports that Libya declared a force majeure on crude exports from the port of Marsa el-Hariga, sending oil futures sharply higher. Libya's National Oil Company said several oil fields in the Eastern provinces were shut down due to the lack of funds, adding that the nation's crude production could fall by as much as 280,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the coming days.
The dispute over so-called field allowances paid to Libya's Petroleum Facilities Guard controlled by General Khalifa Haftar were said to be at the center of developing budgetary crisis. Haftar, sometimes described as "Libya's most potent warlord," controls a large chunk of eastern terminals and oil fields and has clashed with the finance ministry over payouts to his loyal paramilitary forces.
Libya was mired in a bitter civil war for most of the past decade after Muammar Gaddafi was deposed by NATO-backed forces in 2011, with rival political factions battling for control of the country's prolific oil fields. In October 2020, the United Nations recognized government in Tripoli and opposition forces led by Khalifa agreed to a ceasefire which included generous payouts to the parties that controlled the eastern fields.
Libya, north Africa's largest oil producer, pumped 1.196 million bpd of crude oil in March, its highest output rate since June 2013, according to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
NYMEX May WTI delivery expired at $62.44 bbl, down 94 cents on the session, while June contract expanding its premium to 23 cents for a $62.67 bbl settlement. ICE Brent crude for June delivery declined down 48 cents at $66.57 bbl. NYMEX May ULSD futures dropped 1.24 cents to close at $1.8801 gallon and May RBOB futures dropped 2.71 cents to $2.0174 gallon.
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