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 increased by 7.3 million barrels to a total of 360.8 million barrels. At 360.8 million barrels, inventories are 12.9 million barrels above last year (3.7%) and remain above average. Supply at NYMEX delivery point, Cushing, Oklahoma increased some 100,000 barrels to 37.2 million barrels this week. Supplies at Cushing have increased for the third time in a month, and are approaching record territory once again.

Gasoline inventories increased 0.1 million barrels to 222.2 million barrels. At 222.2 million barrels, inventories are now 9.2 million barrels, or 4.3% higher than last year (last week that number was 3.1% higher). Decreases in gasoline inventories were seen on the East Coast (-0.3mb) and the Midwest (-0.1mb). The Gulf Coast posted a gain (0.1mb) last week, along with the Rockies (0.1mb) and West Coast (0.2mb).

Distillate inventories increased by 0.9 million barrels to a total of 167.5 million barrels. At 167.5 million barrels, inventories are 3.0% higher than a year ago (A week ago that number was 3.8%). Demand for distillate fuel (diesel, industrial fuels) is up an average of 9.3% over the last four weeks (last week the number finally dropped to single digits and we're seeing that remain more stable now). Distillate inventories are now 4.9 million barrels above their year ago level.

Refinery utilization increased slightly to 90.6%, a fall of 0.9% over last week's numbers. Gasoline production increased last week to 9.6 million barrels per day while distillate fuel production averaged 4.3 million barrels per day, a decrease over the prior week. Gasoline output was among the highest in quite some time.

Refineries in the Gulf Coast and East Coast tied- they operated at the highest utilization- some 92.5% of capacity. Refiners in the Midwest came in third at 92.3%. Refiners on the West Coast dragged once again and were down 1.7%, again running the lowest percent of available capacity at just 82.9%. Since the DOE began monitoring districts for utilization, I've not seen the West Coast run over 90% utilization while all other areas have.

Production of fuel ethanol, a key ingredient in gasoline in much of the U.S. was 816,000 barrels per day a decrease of 20,000bbls/day.

Total oil stocks in the United States are down 4.3 million barrels (-0.4%) over last year and stand at 1.1231 billion barrels (excluding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve).

This report was quite a surprise. There were virtually no decreases in overall inventories, and we're just 4.3 million barrels behind last years numbers. I continue to think that motorists on the West Coast should call for an inquiry into refinery utilization there- it is certainly adding to already high prices.