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EIA: The US imports and exports substantial volumes of petroleum

Published by , Deputy Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

US net trade of petroleum, which includes crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas plant liquids, has fallen in recent years, reaching 2.3 million bpd in 2018. This level is the lowest level of net petroleum trade (imports minus exports) since 1967. At the same time, total US gross petroleum trade (imports plus exports) have reached an all-time high of 17.5 million bpd in 2018. The result has been a growing role for the United States in world petroleum trade.

Crude oil imports have decreased in recent years as US crude oil production has increased. After averaging a record high of 10.1 million bpd in 2005, crude oil imports fell by 2.8 million bpd to an average of 7.3 million bpd in 2014. Since then, crude oil imports have increased slightly, averaging 7.7 million bpd in 2018.

Not all crude oil is the same quality. Most of the reduction in US imports was of light, sweet crude oil, as those barrels were replaced by domestic production of a similar quality. US crude oil exports have also increased as domestic production has risen. US crude oil exports have set annual record highs in each year since 2014, most recently averaging 2.0 million bpd in 2018.

At the same time, US refinery runs have been setting record highs. The increase in refinery output of petroleum products has outpaced the increase in US consumption of petroleum products such as distillate fuel oil, gasoline, and propane, leading to an increase in exports.

Total US petroleum product exports averaged a record 5.6 million bpd in 2018. Distillate and gasoline exports have increased, particularly to countries in the Western Hemisphere. Propane exports have also increased, mostly to Asian markets.

EIA expects these trends to continue over the next several years. In its March Short-Term Energy Outlook, EIA forecasts that the United States will become a net exporter of crude oil and petroleum products on a monthly basis later this year and on an annual basis in 2020.

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