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EIA: US exports of petroleum products reached their highest average in 1H22

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

In 1H22, US exports of petroleum products averaged nearly 6 million bpd – the highest first-half-of-year exports in the EIA's Petroleum Supply Monthly data since 1981. Nearly all petroleum products contributed to more exports, with the largest increases coming from distillate fuel oil and hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGLs). Changes in Europe’s supply sources contributed to shifts in trade patterns for some, but not all, US exports. In the September 2022 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), it is forecast that petroleum product net exports (gross exports minus gross imports) will remain above the five-year (2017 – 2021) average through the end of 2023, suggesting gross exports will remain higher than previous years.

US petroleum product exports increased in 1H22 by 11% (596 000 bpd) compared with the same period in 2021 — the fastest growth rate for that time period since 2017. Most of the growth was distillate fuel oil, exports of which increased by 19% (190 000 bpd), and HGL exports, which increased by 5% (114 000 bpd). High demand and low inventories globally, magnified by economic sanctions against Russia’s petroleum exports and self-sanctioning by some firms following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, have disrupted global distillate trade.

Despite the increase from 2021, US distillate exports of 1.18 million bpd in 1H22 remained 2% below the five-year average. US motor gasoline exports increased by 11% (89 000 bpd) to reach a new record of 910 000 bpd for the first six months of the year. Exports in June of 970 000 bpd continued the trend from 2021 of new monthly record gasoline exports in the summer. US jet fuel exports increased by 104% (87 000 bpd) to reach 171 000 bpd. Jet fuel exports remain 11% below their pre-pandemic five-year (2015 – 2019) average. Only US residual fuel oil exports declined compared with 2021, falling slightly to 113 000 bpd.

Exports to Latin America increased to over 1 million bpd in 1H22, while exports to Europe decreased to 71 000 bpd over the same period. Latin America accounted for 91% of US distillate exports during this period, with Mexico, Chile and Brazil receiving the largest volumes. Europe accounted for 6% of US distillate exports during the first half of the year, the smallest share for this period since 2003. In Europe, responses related to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine have caused changes in trading patterns for other fuel sources; however, so far, that has not happened for distillate fuel oil. For example, US crude oil exports to Europe averaged a record of 1.67 million bpd in May, as refiners in Europe moved business away from Russia and started drawing on alternative sources. Similarly, US LNG exports to Europe increased substantially in 2022, as new sources replaced declining natural gas supplies from Russia. Yet, as of June 2022, Europe’s imports of distillate from Russia show little change from 2021. European sanctions adopted in June 2022 that prohibit imports of crude oil and certain petroleum products from Russia, including distillate fuel oil, will take effect in December 2022 for crude oil, and in February 2023 for petroleum products.

US propane exports averaged 1.39 million bpd in 1H22, a 6% increase (78 000 bpd) from 1H21. Propane was the most-exported US petroleum product in 1H22, continuing a trend that started in 2020. US exports to Asia have grown rapidly in recent years as consumption of propane as a petrochemical feedstock and consumer demand has increased. This stronger inclination toward Asian markets distinguishes propane from other major US refined product exports, such as distillate and gasoline, which mostly flow to destinations in the Americas.

About 51% of US propane exports went to Asia – mostly to Japan, China and South Korea. However, exports to Asia declined for the first time since 2018, by 3% (22 000 bpd). In contrast, most of the growth in propane exports went to Europe, increasing by 51% (87 000 bpd) to average 259 000 bpd and reaching an all-time high in June of 349 000 bpd. Similar to crude oil, following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Europe increased propane imports from the US. High naphtha prices have also made propane more competitive for flexible feedstock crackers in Europe.

Although the STEO does not forecast gross US petroleum product exports, the EIA's forecast of net petroleum product exports from the September 2022 STEO suggests that gross petroleum product exports will remain higher than previous years through 2023. In 1H22, net exports of US petroleum products averaged 3.87 million bpd, or 24% (740 000 bpd) more than on average during the previous five years. Most of the increase in this period came from HGLs, which were 38% (610 000 bpd) more than their 2017 – 2021 average. In 2023, we forecast net exports of petroleum products will average 3.91 million bpd, a 1% decline from 2022 but still 21% above the 2017 – 2021 average. It is forecast that HGL net exports will average 2.57 million bpd in 2023 – a 10% (240 000 000 bpd) increase compared with 2022 levels, and 55% above the 2017 – 2021 average.

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