Diesel and heating oil supplies are dangerously low in the Northeast compared to the recent average, prompting concerns from officials as winter approaches.
Diesel fuel and heating oil, which comprise the distillate category, are 63% below the five-year average in New England and 58% below the same average from Maryland to New York, according to a survey by the Department of Energy. The agency said that gasoline inventories are not as bad but are still at their lowest levels in nearly a decade along the entire East Coast.
Based on data released Aug. 17 by the Energy Information Administration, distillate stocks for the East Coast are 47% below the seasonal five-year average, the DOE told FOX Business.
Gasoline stocks for the East Coast are 20% below the seasonal five-year average, with New England being 23% below, the Central Atlantic being 27% below, and the Lower Atlantic being 12% below, the DOE said.
For the week ending Aug. 19, total gasoline stock for the East Coast was 53.6 million barrels, down from 56.4 million a year ago and up from 50.9 million for the week ending Aug. 12, according to DOE data.
The Northeast is heavily dependent on heating oil to keep homes warm in the winter, while other regions rely more on natural gas and electricity. Most fuel consumed from the Middle Atlantic states to Maine comes from Gulf Coast refineries, according to energy officials.
The low diesel and heating oil supply levels have raised concerns that a hurricane or other event could cause supply disruptions. Heating oil disruptions would hit the region hard because the percentage of homes that rely on it ranges from 24% in Massachusetts to more than 60% in Maine, the most heavily dependent states.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is convening a meeting of New England governors and their energy directors after Labor Day to discuss the situation. In the meantime, she has urged governors in a letter to take whatever steps they can to shore up fuel supplies in coming weeks to prevent any problems.
Jennifer Granholm, US Secretary of Energy, speaks at the Sydney Energy Forum on July 12, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Brook Mitchell/Getty Images / Getty Images)
Granholm also sent a letter Aug. 18 asking domestic oil producers to stop exports and build up their inventories, a move The Schork Group co-founder and principal Stephen Schork argued showed an "utter lack of understanding" about how the global oil market works.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, has urged the Energy Department to expedite its meeting with governors to discuss maintaining a stable heating oil supply.
Despite the concern, wholesale suppliers and retailers are working well together, and Michael Ferrante of the Massachusetts Energy Marketers Association said he anticipates inventories will increase in September and October, easing the immediate concerns. He said he is optimistic that there will be an ample supply of heating oil.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February has contributed to fuel supply issues and volatility in the global energy sector.
As part of an effort to increase supply and bring down high energy prices partly caused by the invasion, President Joe Biden's administration has been exporting barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to other countries. Earlier in August, the inventory of crude oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPF) fell to its lowest level since 1985.
Storage tanks are seen at Marathon Petroleum’s Los Angeles Refinery, which processes domestic & imported crude oil into California Air Resources Board (CARB), gasoline, diesel fuel, and other petroleum products, in Carson, California, U.S., M (REUTERS/Bing Guan / Reuters Photos)
European countries have also expressed concerns about energy supplies as winter approaches.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.