Shifts in regional crude pricing may have attracted some additional imports to the Gulf Coast. During the first ten trading days of March, Gulf Coast benchmark Louisiana Light Sweet (LLS) fetched a premium of about $1.30 per barrel to Brent; for the remainder of March that differential widened to around $3 per barrel on average. Similarly, a strengthening LLS-Bonny Light differential in late March might have pulled some Nigerian barrels across the Atlantic.
Compounding the impact of those new crude flows, Gulf Coast refinery runs, far from keeping up with rising imports, have inched down counter-seasonally by about 10,000 bbl/d from the week ending March 16 to the week ending April 20. Some Gulf Coast refineries may have conducted late-season maintenance in March and early April, after runs had been relatively high through the typically heavy February maintenance period. Crude units expected to come back on line in late April could temporarily draw down some of the recent Gulf Coast inventory builds. However, as crude shipments resume on the Seaway Pipeline following its reversal that is now expected to be completed in mid-May, line fill and new southbound crude flows could lead to structurally higher inventory levels in PADD 3, even as the reversed pipeline starts reducing stocks in Cushing (PADD 2).