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US gasoline exports reach seasonal high

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Motor gasoline exports from the US reached record highs in May, June, and July for each of these months, according to the US Energy Information Administtaion’s (EIA) ‘Petroleum Supply Monthly’ (PSM).

Summer exports in May, June, and July reflect a departure from the historical seasonality of gasoline exports because gasoline export levels are usually low during the summer.

In May, exports of motor gasoline (the combination of exports of finished motor gasoline and motor gasoline blending components) averaged 941 000 bpd, or 276 000 bpd (41%) more than the five-year (2016 – 2020) average for May. June exports averaged 935 000 bpd, exceeding its five-year average by 230 000 bpd (33%). In July, gasoline exports again averaged 935 000 bpd, exceeding the five-year average for July by 181 000 bpd (24%).

Gasoline exports from the US are typically highest in the winter and early spring, when domestic gasoline demand is lower and refinery operations continue at the summer and fall pace to meet seasonally higher distillate demand. For that reason, refineries produce more gasoline during the winter and early spring than US consumption, and the extra production contributes to rebuilding seasonal inventories and to sending exports.

During the summer, more domestic consumption often reduces the availability of gasoline for export, contributing to lower exports during that time of the year. Although the export volumes during this May, June, and July are noteworthy because of their elevated levels during the summer, the US usually exports more gasoline during the later months of the calendar year.

The US exports distillate fuel oil to a relatively diverse set of destinations, but US exports of motor gasoline go primarily to Mexico. Exports to Mexico typically accounted for between 50% and 70% of all US gasoline exports over the past five years. Gasoline exports to Mexico were a major contributor to the increased summer exports this year.

Mexico imported more gasoline than average between May and July 2021 for several reasons. A refinery fire at PEMEX’s 285 000 bpd Minatitlan refinery required extensive repairs, resulting in reduced PEMEX gasoline production in May and June compared with their five-year averages, based on reports from PEMEX. Also, a cyberattack in the US temporarily disrupted the ability to move gasoline and other products along the critical Colonial Pipeline system in May, which might have encouraged Gulf Coast refiners to export volumes to Mexico that would otherwise have been distributed within the US.

Gasoline exports were elevated during the summer, but the US has also imported more gasoline by month through most of this year than the previous monthly five-year averages. US cold weather refinery outages in February led to increased gasoline imports in March to compensate for the lost production. Even after US refinery production resumed, imports have remained above the five-year average and often above the five-year high.

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