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Last Updated: November 30, 2017
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The United States continues trend toward exporting more gasoline than it imports


Despite record high gasoline consumption, the United States is on pace to export more gasoline than it imports for the second year in a row. Changes in regional markets, increased demand for exports, and high refinery runs are once again leading to the United States to be a net exporter in 2017.


In 2016, the United States became a net exporter of gasoline for the first time on an annual basis with net gasoline exports of 56,000 barrels per day (b/d). Through September 2017 (the most recently available monthly data), the United States averaged net gasoline exports of 55,000 b/d. The shift toward net exports of gasoline on an annual basis has been a long-running trend.


U.S. gasoline imports and exports are highly seasonal. The United States has typically been a net importer of gasoline in spring and summer months, when domestic consumption increases, and a net exporter in winter months, when demand is lower. However, for every month between April and August 2017, the United States set either record low net imports or record high net exports (Figure 1). Almost year-round net gasoline exports is a major change for U.S. gasoline markets, which is the result of one long-term trend and two more recent trends.

Figure 1. U.S. total motor gasoline trade


Changes in trends of gasoline production and consumption in the Midwest United States, in part, have driven this trend. Historically, the U.S. Gulf Coast (Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PADD) 3) supplied refined products to other regions of the United States where demand exceeded supply, such as the Midwest (PADD 2) and the U.S. East Coast (PADD 1). While the East Coast still relies on supplies from the Gulf Coast and still remains a large net importer of gasoline—619,000 b/d in 2016, the Midwest has reduced its need to draw supplies from the Gulf Coast in recent years. Midwest refineries now are running at higher rates and increased capacity, resulting in more Midwest gasoline demand being met from in-region production. Between 2006 and 2016, Midwest receipts of gasoline from the Gulf Coast declined by 278,000 b/d to 273,000 b/d.


Because of logistical and economic constraints on sending increasing gasoline supplies from the Gulf Coast to other regions, the volumes of gasoline no longer demanded by the Midwest have become available for export. With the Rocky Mountain (PADD 4) and U.S. West Coast (PADD 5) relying largely on in-region or domestic supplies, the balance of U.S. net gasoline imports or exports is between East Coast imports and Gulf Coast exports. Between 2013 and 2016, Gulf Coast gasoline exports increased by 236,000 b/d (54%), while East Coast imports increased by 41,000 b/d (7%), resulting in a shift for the United States as a whole.

Figure 2. PADD total motor gasoline trade


Available Gulf Coast gasoline supplies come at a time when both domestic and nearby fuel markets are experiencing increasing demand for multiple petroleum products, including gasoline. A majority of the growth in U.S. gasoline exports has been to markets in Mexico and Central and South America. In the first half of 2017, Mexico accounted for 53% of the 755,000 b/d of U.S. total motor gasoline exports. Low utilization of Mexican refineries and the ongoing market reforms of Mexico’s retail fuel distribution have resulted in continued increased demand for gasoline supplies from the U.S. Gulf Coast.


At the same time, U.S. domestic gasoline consumption has been increasing to record levels. U.S. gasoline consumption, as measured by product supplied, set a new monthly record high of 9.8 million b/d in August 2017. To meet the combined record domestic gasoline demand and the increased export demand for multiple petroleum products—including gasoline—U.S. refineries have been running at increasingly higher rates. U.S. gross refinery inputs set a record high of 17.8 million b/d for the week ending August 25 and have been higher than the five-year range for a majority of 2017 (Figure 3).

Figure 3. U.S. gross refinery inputs


If the trends of increasing demand from export markets and U.S. refineries producing near record levels of gasoline continues, the United States is likely to become a monthly net exporter of gasoline more consistently.


U.S. average regular gasoline prices fall, diesel prices increase


The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price fell nearly 4 cents from the previous week to $2.53 per gallon on November 27, up 38 cents from the same time last year. The Midwest price fell eight cents to $2.42 per gallon, the Gulf Coast price fell over two cents to $2.26 per gallon, the East Coast and West Coast prices each fell nearly two cents to $2.51 per gallon and $3.04 per gallon, respectively, and the Rocky Mountain price fell less than one cent, remaining at $2.54 per gallon.


The U.S. average diesel fuel price increased over 1 cent to $2.93 per gallon on November 27, 51 cents higher than a year ago. The Rocky Mountain and Gulf Coast prices each increased over two cents to $3.03 per gallon and $2.71 per gallon, respectively, the East Coast and Midwest prices each increased one cent to $2.91 per gallon and $2.88 per gallon, respectively, and the West Coast price increased less than one cent, remaining at $3.38 per gallon.


Propane inventories decline


U.S. propane stocks decreased by 0.6 million barrels last week to 73.2 million barrels as of November 24, 2017, 10.4 million barrels (12.5%) lower than the five-year average inventory level for this same time of year. Gulf Coast, Midwest, and Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories decreased by 0.5 million barrels, 0.3 million barrels, and 0.2 million barrels, respectively, while East Coast inventories rose by 0.5 million barrels. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 3.5% of total propane inventories.


Residential heating oil and propane prices continue to increase


As of November 27, 2017, residential heating oil prices averaged $2.85 per gallon, over 2 cents per gallon more than last week and almost 45 cents per gallon higher than last year’s price at this time. The average wholesale heating oil price for this week is just under $2.04 per gallon, nearly 1 cent per gallon less than last week but 45 cents per gallon higher than a year ago.


Residential propane prices averaged $2.43 per gallon, almost 2 cents per gallon more than last week and nearly 36 cents per gallon higher than a year ago. Wholesale propane prices averaged $1.12 per gallon, unchanged from last week but 48 cents per gallon higher than last year's price.

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