The overall petroleum demand in the United States went down in 2012 to the lowest annual level in 16 years, said a leading industry group in a report released on Friday.
The total petroleum deliveries, a measure of demand, fell 2.0 percent last year from the 2011 average to 18.6 million barrels per day, said the American Petroleum Institute (API) in its report.
US petroleum demand in December 2012 was also down 2.1 percent from a year ago. Throughout the year of 2012, declines were seen in all months except for May.
In December, gasoline deliveries edged down to 8.584 million barrels per day, 0.4 percent less than a year ago. For all of the 12 months, gasoline deliveries averaged 8.7 million barrels per day, down 0.4 percent from 2011 and also the lowest annual level in 11 years.
In contrast, US domestic crude oil production in December rose to 6.967 million barrels per day, up 2.6 percent from the previous month and reaching the highest level since March 1993. It also drove the average production for 2012 up to 6.4 million barrels per day, a 15-year high and an increase of 13.8 percent from the 2011 level. It was the largest annual increase since 1859.
"The year was a story of contrasts," said API chief economist John Felmy. "The production bright spot reflects an industry investing and hiring at high rates. Yet, demand was worse in 2012 than when the economy bottomed out in the recession."
With the surging domestic energy production, imports of crude oil and refined products in 2012 were at the lowest level in 15 years, averaging 10.5 million barrels per day.
The report also said that the December crude oil stocks of 359. 8 million barrels, which excluded strategic petroleum reserve, were a 31-year high.
API represents more than 500 oil and natural gas companies that supply most of the US energy and support an estimated 7.7 percent of the US economy.