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U.S. crude stockpiles fell sharply last week due to a surge in exports to a more than a two-year high, while production neared pre-pandemic levels, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Crude inventories fell by 8 million barrels in the week ended April 15 to 413.7 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2.5 million-barrel rise.

“Strong exports have been driven by a pull to Europe and we should expect strength in the weeks ahead,” said Matt Smith, lead Americas analyst at Kpler.

That was driven by a surge in exports, which rose to 4.3 million barrels per day in the most recent week, the most since March 2020, while imports fell to their lowest since April 2021, a reflection of worldwide demand for crude as Russian exports have fallen since its invasion of Ukraine in February.

Those exports offset an injection of 4.7 million barrels from U.S. strategic reserves as part of the White House’s efforts to lower fuel prices overall.

U.S. production rose, hitting 11.9 million bpd, its highest since May 2020, at a point when oil companies were starting to reduce output in response to the worsening of the coronavirus pandemic.

Refinery crude runs rose by 194,000 bpd last week, increasing refinery utilization rates by 1 percentage point to 91 per cent of total capacity.

That came even as overall demand has slipped somewhat in the United States, as product supplied, a measure of demand, fell to its lowest on a four-week moving basis since June last year.

U.S. gasoline stocks fell by 761,000 barrels in the week to 232.4 million barrels. Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 2.7 million barrels to 108.7 million barrels, hitting levels not seen since May 2008.

Oil prices rose on the data, with U.S. crude futures gaining $1.07 to $103.63 a barrel, while Brent added 75 cents to $107.98 a barrel.

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