The Department of Energy released its weekly report on the condition of petroleum inventories in the United States today.

Here are some highlights:

Crude oil inventories decreased by 4.0 million barrels to a total of 353.1 million barrels. At 353.1 million barrels, inventories are 6.8 million barrels below last year (-1.9%) and are above average. Supply at NYMEX delivery point, Cushing, Oklahoma fell 0.4 million barrels to 32.7 million barrels this week.

Gasoline inventories increased by 0.2 million barrels to 208.8 million barrels. At 208.8 million barrels, inventories are now 16.3 million barrels, or 7.2% lower than last year (last week that number was 7.4% lower). Regions posting gains in inventories last week were the Midwest (+0.4mb) and Gulf Coast (+0.8mb). Decreases were seen on the East Coast (-0.8mb), the Rockies (-0.2mb), and the West Coast (-0.0mb).

Distillate inventories increased by 0.7 million barrels to a total of 156.8 million barrels. At 156.8 million barrels, inventories are now 10.3% lower than a year ago. Supply of distillate fuel (diesel, industrial fuels) is up an average of 1.2% over the last four weeks (last week the number was 5.5% higher than last year). Distillate inventories are 18.1 million barrels lower than their year ago level.

Refinery utilization hit 89.0%, a drop of 0.2% vs. last week's numbers. Gasoline production decreased last week to 9.2 million barrels per day while distillate fuel production averaged 4.5 million barrels per day, a decrease over the prior week.

Refineries in the Gulf Coast PADD operated at the highest utilization- some 94.2% of capacity. Refiners in the Midwest PADD came in second at 91.5% while refiners in the Rockies PADD came in third with 89.6%. East Coast refiners took the position of utilizing the lowest percentage of their plants last week, edging out the West Coast. West Coast plants ran at 87.1% of their capacity while East Coast plants ran 58.3% of their available capacity, likely because of Hurricane Irene related shutdowns.

Production of fuel ethanol, a key ingredient in gasoline- increased 8,000bpd to 896,000 barrels per day.

Total oil stocks in the United States are down 55.6 million barrels (-4.9%) over last year and stand at 1.088 billion barrels (excluding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve).

It is notable that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve continues to drop, declining 4.0 million barrels to 696.9 million barrels from its peak at 726.5 million barrels.

Also, we're starting to track exports of refined products, since exports can effectively slow down domestic inventory increases. In the latest EIA report, the U.S. imported 608,000 barrels per day of gasoline, and 176,000bpd of distillate fuels. During the same time frame, the U.S. exported 395,000bpd of gasoline and 745,000bpd of distillates.