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Most US petroleum consumed in transportation sector

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Petroleum, which consists of crude oil and refined products such as gasoline, diesel, and propane, is the largest primary source of energy consumed in the US, accounting for 36% of total energy consumption in 2018, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

More than two-thirds of finished petroleum products consumed in the US are used in the transportation sector. The EIA’s US petroleum flow diagram helps to visualise US petroleum supply (production, imports, and withdrawals from storage) and disposition (consumption, exports, and additions to storage).

The large number of refined products and outlets for sale (e.g. gasoline stations) makes data difficult to collect and end-use consumption difficult to calculate. EIA uses petroleum product supplied to estimate petroleum consumption. EIA calculates product supplied by adding field production, refinery and blender net production, and imports and then subtracting stock change, refinery and blender net inputs, and exports. Petroleum product supplied increased for the sixth consecutive year in 2018, totalling approximately 20 million bpd.

In 2018, US exports of crude oil reached a record high of 2 million bpd, an increase of about 0.8 million bpd from 2017. US crude oil exports have increased significantly since the beginning of 2016, after the US Congress lifted restrictions on exporting crude oil. In addition, U.S. exports of total petroleum products reached a record high of 5.6 million bpd in 2018, an increase of 0.3 million bpd from the previous year.

The US imported about 8 million bpd of crude oil in 2018, a 3% decrease from 2017. Net imports of crude oil and petroleum products were down to about 2 million bpd, the lowest level since 1967. The US still imports crude oil because of geographic and quality considerations.

In 2018, total field production, which includes crude oil, lease condensate, and natural gas liquids (NGLs), reached a record high of more than 15 million bpd. US crude oil production reached a record high of nearly 11 million bpd in 2018, a 17% increase from the record set in 2017. Production of NGLs reached a record high of more than 4 million bpd, a 15% increase from the record set in 2017. Increased production from tight oil and shale formations drove these record highs.

Most crude oil is refined into petroleum products used for transportation, such as motor gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The transportation sector has been the largest consumer of petroleum products in the US since at least 1949, the earliest year for which EIA has data. Transportation accounted for about 14 million bpd of petroleum consumption in 2018. This level was the second highest since its peak in 2007.

After transportation, the industrial sector accounts for the second-largest share of petroleum consumption, accounting for about 5 million bpd in 2018. Examples of industrial use of petroleum products include hydrocarbon gas liquids used as feedstocks for chemicals and plastics, as well as asphalt and road oil used for construction and road maintenance.

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