Lisbon gas issues
No need to fill 'er up... Car owners are not to be found in any numbers at gas stations in the US and Europe. Refineries are facing the consequences. Image Credit: AFP

New York: US gasoline demand has collapsed as stay-at-home orders keep drivers off the road, following the pattern seen in the hardest-hit parts of Europe.

Sales at retail stations were down 46.6 per cent from a year earlier in the week ending March 28, according to a report from OPIS by IHS Markit. The average station sold about 11,000 gallons - less than two tanker trucks’ worth.

The gasoline demand plunge accelerated as government orders on staying home became more widespread, dropping 30 per cent in a week. The loss of consumption in the US echoes that of Spain and Italy, which imposed some of Europe’s harshest restrictions on movement. Demand there for gasoline was down about 85 per cent.

Weekly US government data show that the least gasoline was supplied to the market since 1994. While the drop isn’t as drastic as at the retail level, it’s likely to increase as retailers take less fuel. Refineries are cutting back production as fuel piles up in storage tanks, in turn pushing down crude prices.

Globally, oil demand may shrink by as much as a third, according to some estimates.

Europe stays off the road

European countries are also taking a hit. Gasoline demand fell 83 per cent on an annual basis in Spain during the week ended March 29, according to pipeline operator CLH Group. In the UK, gasoline sales in late March were down by 66 per cent, compared with an average during the previous two months, the UK Petrol Retailers Association said.

A survey of Dutch car dealers, driving schools and transport companies found that respondents lost almost half of their revenue on average as a result of the virus, according to industry group Bovag, which conducted the study.

“The Netherlands really has come to a standstill,” said Bovag spokesman Tom Huyskens. “Only those that really need it are driving, filling up their tank, but otherwise traffic has pretty much stopped.”