U.S. oil refiners are exceeding early-January U.S. Energy Information Administration predictions that the nation’s refineries would be running at nearly 92% of their capacity through 2024.

While increased supplies of refined products might offer lower pump prices for motor fuels in some cases, experts say the boosts in production likely will be aimed at replenishing stockpiles of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel drawn down as the nation returned to work after the effects of COVID.

A mid-May Reuters report quoting investment firm Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. managing director Matthew Blair, indicates the higher run rate of 94% through the second quarter of 2023 is being driven by lower-than-average motor fuel stocks and higher profit margins. The increase amounts to 17.9 million barrels (42 U.S. gallons) per day of crude oil inputs, on par with 2017 to 2019 averages for the period.

“Gasoline and distillates (diesel and jet fuel) are 7% and 16% below their 5-year averages,” Blair explains, noting the mid-year refining pace compares to 91.3% in the year-ago quarter and 71.5% and 87.8% run-rates in 2020 and 2021 when COVID-19 lockdowns reduced fuel demand and tanked industry profits.

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