U.S. refineries are processing crude oil at their highest rate in at least 25 years, according to new federal data.
The Energy Information Administration reported on Friday that gross inputs to refineries eclipsed 17 million barrels per day in each of the last four weeks, which amounted to a rolling four-week average that's the largest since EIA began tracking weekly data in 1990.
In addition, each of the EIA’s five regional markets reflected refinery utilization rates in excess of 90 percent for the first time since weekly tracking began in 2010; that would also be the first time all five regions exceeded 90 percent utilization in the same month since 2006.
The Gulf Coast and Midwest regions experienced especially elevated crude runs, while the West Coast region saw high input despite a continued outage at ExxonMobil's refinery in Torrance, California.
EIA analysts attributed the record numbers to increased refinery capacity and changes in the global oil market. Sharply lower crude prices and strong demand — particularly for gasoline — encouraged investments in refineries and more crude input.
The amount of motor gasoline supplied in the U.S. is up 2.9 percent through May of this year, with markets in Europe and India experiencing similar conditions. Net exports from U.S. refineries are up by 19 percent over that span.
EIA projections expect refinery runs to slow down in fourth quarter and in early 2016 — as the nation's driving season ends — before increasing to new record highs next summer.