U.S. refineries are processing a record volume of crude oil for this time of year, capitalizing on falling oil prices and a surplus of crude from shale drilling.
New figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that refineries used 16.6 million barrels a day of crude and other liquids last week, the highest figure recorded for any November week and up from 16.3 million the previous week as they ended seasonal maintenance.
Refineries were operating at 93.4 percent of their capacity, up from 91.5 percent a week earlier.
Across the United States, crude inventories fell by 3.7 million barrels compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 1.3 million barrels, Reuters reported.
The ramping up of oil refining has boosted fuel supplies and helped extend the decline in gasoline pump prices. According to motoring organization AAA, prices at the pump are the lowest they have been in more than four years.
"Refiners have returned from their fall maintenance and they are turning the crude-oil surplus into the petroleum-product surplus," Andy Lipow, president of energy consulting firm Lipow Oil Associates LLC, told Bloomberg.
Lipow expects the retail price of gasoline to continue to decline through Christmas.
Meanwhile, the strong demand from refineries has kept the price of high-quality "light" U.S. crude in line with international prices, confounding earlier predictions that a surplus would lead to deep discounts, the Financial Times noted.