(Updates with price and adds comments)
By Jessica Resnick-Ault and David Gaffen
Sept 20 (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil stockpiles jumped last week as imports and production increased, while distillate inventories fell the most in nearly six years and gasoline inventories also declined, as the Gulf Coast recovers from the impact from Hurricane Harvey, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
Crude inventories rose for a third straight week, building by 4.6 million barrels in the week ending Sept. 15, compared with analyst expectations for an increase of 3.5 million barrels. On the East Coast, crude stockpiles touched the lowest level seasonally since 2014.
U.S. crude imports increased by 734,000 barrels per day and domestic crude production rose 157,000 bpd to 9.51 million bpd, close to levels before Harvey hit Texas on Aug. 25.
”The impact of Hurricane Harvey can still be seen in today’s larger-than-expected build in the U.S. commercial crude stockpile,“ said Abhishek Kumar, Senior Energy Analyst at Interfax Energy’s Global Gas Analytics in London. ”However, this has had limited impact in dissipating the bullish sentiment prevailing in the market.”
Oil prices pared gains after the EIA data showed the bigger-than-expected build in crude inventories. U.S. crude traded up 91 cents to $50.39 a barrel by 11:05 a.m. EDT (1505 GMT). Benchmark Brent crude traded up $1.18 at $56.32.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. futures rose by 703,000 barrels, EIA said.
Gasoline stocks fell 2.1 million barrels, in line with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell 5.7 million barrels, more than three times more than expectations for a 1.6 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
The draw was the largest since November, 2011, bringing inventories to 16 percent below year-ago levels.
Refinery utilization rates rose by 5.5 percentage points to 83.2 percent of total capacity as crude runs rose by 1.1 million bpd, EIA data showed. In the week before Harvey hit, refining rates were at 96.6 percent, their highest since 2005.
Weekly refining inputs in the U.S. Gulf, a measure of production in the key refining hub of the United States, rebounded from record lows hit in the wake of Harvey, but still remains far below more typical levels.
Refining inputs rose to 7 million bpd, up from 5.7 million bpd a week earlier; the Gulf usually refines about 9 million barrels of crude daily.
“Nearly a month after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in South Texas, the data are finally signaling a return to more normal operations in the region,” said Troy Vincent with information service ClipperData. (Reporting By David Gaffen and Jessica Resnick-Ault additional reporting by David Gregorio and Catherine Ngai in New York)