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Record US petroleum product exports in 2018

Published by , Editorial Assistant
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has reported that US exports of total petroleum products set a record high in 2018, reaching an annual average of 5.6 million bpd, an increase of 366 000 bpd from 2017 levels. The three largest petroleum product exports from the United States in 2018 were distillate, propane, and motor gasoline. US exports of motor gasoline (including blending components) and propane reached record highs in 2018, and exports of distillate reached their second-highest volume on record, following the high set in 2017.

Record US petroleum product exports in 2018

Total US petroleum product exports set a record high in 2018 for the 16th consecutive year. From 2009 to 2013, distillate exports contributed the most to annual growth. However, from 2014 to 2018, exports of hydrocarbon gas liquids, which include propane, drove US petroleum product export growth.

As US crude oil production increased over the past decade, gross inputs into refineries also increased. Petroleum products can be used domestically, exported, or put into inventory. In 2018, record-high levels of US crude oil production and refinery runs helped refiners export large volumes of petroleum products, even with high levels of domestic demand.

Despite an 80 000 bpd decrease in exports in 2018 from 2017, distillate remained the most exported petroleum product in 2018, averaging 1.3 million bpd, or approximately 25% of US refinery net production. Distillate exports were still more than 100 000 bpd higher than the previous five-year average (2013–2017). The United States exported distillate to 64 destinations in 2018, with the largest volumes destined for Mexico.

Mexico received an average of 298 000 bpd, or 23% of US distillate exports, increasing 42 000 bpd from 2017. Mexico’s increasing exports were likely driven by the country’s refineries that continued to operate below capacity in 2018, as reported by trade press. Brazil received the second-largest share of distillate exported from the United States, averaging 151 000 bpd (12% of US distillate exports), down by 57 000 bpd from 2017. Chile, Peru, and the Netherlands comprise the remainder of the top five recipients of US distillate exports.

US propane exports reached a record high of 972 000 bpd in 2018, surpassing the previous record of 914 000 bpd set in 2017. Propane exports in 2018 were greater than motor gasoline exports for the third consecutive year, and propane remained the second-largest US petroleum product export. Unlike other US petroleum product exports, which tend to stay in the Western Hemisphere, significant volumes of US propane often reach Asian markets. Three of the top five destinations are in Asia. Propane is used in many Asian countries as a feedstock for producing ethylene and propylene, which are building blocks for chemical and plastic manufacturing.

Japan received the largest share of US propane exports, more than 258 000 bpd (or 7%) of total US propane exports, an increase of 48 000 bpd from 2017 volumes. Exports to Korea and the Netherlands increased by 25 000 bpd and 21 000 bpd, respectively. However, exports to China fell by 62 000 bpd, a 49% year-over-year decline. Mexico received the second-largest share of US propane exports in 2018 at an average of 131 000 bpd, which was down 7000 bpd from 2017 levels.

US exports of motor gasoline (including blending components) reached 44 destinations in 2018 and set a record high of 951 000 bpd, up 126 000 bpd from 2017 levels. This increase in exports came despite high levels of domestic gasoline consumption, averaging 9.3 million bpd in 2018, only slightly lower than the record-high level set in 2017.

US refiner and blender net production of finished motor gasoline increased more than 100 000 bpd to 10.1 million bpd in 2018, a record high, and helped contribute to the simultaneous high levels of domestic consumption and export volumes. The five largest shares of US gasoline exports were all in the Americas. In 2018, Mexico received 529 000 bpd of US gasoline exports, or 56% of total US gasoline exports, which was 60 000 bpd more than in 2017. Exports to Canada increased by 25 000 bpd, to average 62 000 bpd, or 6% of US gasoline exports in 2018.

Principal contributor: Matt French

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