The United States exported 7.3 million barrels per day (b/d) of crude oil and petroleum products in the first half of 2018, when exports of crude oil and hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL) set record monthly highs. Crude oil surpassed HGLs to become the largest U.S. petroleum export, with 1.8 million b/d of exports in the first half of 2018. U.S. exports of crude oil, HGLs, and motor gasoline grew in the first half of 2018 compared with the same period in 2017, while distillate exports decreased 84,000 b/d (Figure 1).
U.S. crude oil exports increased by 787,000 b/d (almost 80%) from the first half of 2017 to the first half of 2018 and set a new monthly record of at 2.2 million b/d in June. Destinations in Asia and Oceania were the largest recipients of U.S. crude oil exports in the first half of 2018, and U.S. crude oil exports to China more than doubled—increasing by 193,000 b/d—from the first half of 2017. U.S. crude oil exports to South Korea and India also increased significantly during this period, up 81,000 b/d and 72,000 b/d, respectively.
Europe was the second-largest market for U.S. crude oil exports, receiving 555,000 b/d in the first half of 2018. U.S. crude oil export volumes to Europe are more equally distributed than in other regions. Italy, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, each received more than 120,000 b/d in the first half of 2018. Canada was the only major U.S. crude oil export destination where exports decreased somewhat, down 13,000 b/d in the first half of 2018 compared with the same period in 2017 (Figure 2).
HGLs were the second-largest petroleum export from the United States in the first half of 2018 at 1.6 million b/d. Destinations in Asia and Oceania were also the primary recipients of U.S. HGLs at 618,000 b/d in the first half of 2018. The region’s main importers were Japan, South Korea, China, and India, many of which have expanded petrochemical facilities that import U.S. HGLs as a feedstock. The second-largest regional destinations for U.S. HGL exports in the first half of 2018 were Canada and Mexico in North America, which received a combined 453,000 b/d in the first half of 2018 (Figure 3). U.S. HGL exports also set a new monthly record in the first half of 2018 at 1.7 million b/d in May 2018.
In the first half of 2018, the United States exported 1.3 million b/d of distillate, primarily to destinations in Central and South America, with Brazil and Chile as the two largest destinations, receiving 131,000 b/d and 114,000 b/d, respectively. The decline in U.S. distillate exports in the first half of 2018 compared with the first half of 2017 is mostly the result of lower exports to a number of destinations in Central and South America and in Europe. However, U.S. distillate exports are typically higher in summer months, most of which occur in the second half of the year. The largest single destination for U.S. distillate exports in the first half of 2018 was Mexico at 289,000 b/d (Figure 4). Despite being the third-largest U.S. petroleum export, U.S. distillate exports go to the largest number of destinations—as 49 different destinations received at least 1,000 b/d in the first half of 2018.
The United States exported 913,000 b/d of motor gasoline in the first half of 2018, an increase of 144,000 b/d compared with the same period in 2017. Mexico accounted for more than half of U.S. motor gasoline exports in the first half of 2018, the largest single-destination concentration for any U.S. petroleum export (Figure 5). Years of under investment in Mexico’s refineries, combined with a mismatch between the type of crude oil produced locally and the type of crude oil Mexico’s refineries were designed to process, has resulted in low refinery utilization rates. Low refinery utilization has resulted in increased imports of motor gasoline and other petroleum products, from the United States. Mexico’s gasoline consumption ranges from 780,000 b/d to 800,000 b/d based on recent history. In the first half of 2018, U.S. gasoline exports to Mexico accounted for more than 60% of the gasoline consumed in Mexico.
U.S. average regular gasoline price decreases, diesel price increases
The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price decreased less than 1 cent from last week to $2.82 per gallon on September 3, 2018, up 15 cents from the same time last year. West Coast prices increased nearly two cents to $3.33 per gallon, and East Coast and Rocky Mountain prices each rose over one cent to $2.78 per gallon and $3.01 per gallon, respectively. Midwest prices fell nearly three cents to $2.73 per gallon and Gulf Coast prices decreased two cents to $2.55 per gallon.
The U.S. average diesel fuel price increased over 2 cents from last week to $3.25 per gallon on September 3, 2018, 49 cents higher than a year ago. Midwest prices increased nearly four cents to $3.19 per gallon, Gulf Coast prices rose over three cents to $3.04 per gallon, West Coast prices increased more than two cents to $3.74 per gallon, and East Coast prices increased over one cent to $3.24 per gallon. Rocky Mountain prices were unchanged, remaining at $3.36 per gallon.
Propane/propylene inventories rise
U.S. propane/propylene stocks increased by 2.0 million barrels last week to 73.4 million barrels as of August 31, 2018, 9.7 million barrels (11.7%) lower than the five-year (2013-2017) average inventory level for this same time of year. Midwest, Gulf Coast, and East Coast inventories increased by 1.2 million barrels, 0.5 million barrels, and 0.3 million barrels, respectively, while Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories fell slightly, remaining virtually unchanged. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 3.9% of total propane/propylene inventories.
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U.S. crude oil production in the U.S. Federal Gulf of Mexico (GOM) averaged 1.8 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2018, setting a new annual record. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects oil production in the GOM to set new production records in 2019 and in 2020, even after accounting for shut-ins related to Hurricane Barry in July 2019 and including forecasted adjustments for hurricane-related shut-ins for the remainder of 2019 and for 2020.
Based on EIA’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook’s (STEO) expected production levels at new and existing fields, annual crude oil production in the GOM will increase to an average of 1.9 million b/d in 2019 and 2.0 million b/d in 2020. However, even with this level of growth, projected GOM crude oil production will account for a smaller share of the U.S. total. EIA expects the GOM to account for 15% of total U.S. crude oil production in 2019 and in 2020, compared with 23% of total U.S. crude oil production in 2011, as onshore production growth continues to outpace offshore production growth.
In 2019, crude oil production in the GOM fell from 1.9 million b/d in June to 1.6 million b/d in July because some production platforms were evacuated in anticipation of Hurricane Barry. This disruption was resolved relatively quickly, and no disruptions caused by Hurricane Barry remain. Although final data are not yet available, EIA estimates GOM crude oil production reached 2.0 million b/d in August 2019.
Producers expect eight new projects to come online in 2019 and four more in 2020. EIA expects these projects to contribute about 44,000 b/d in 2019 and about 190,000 b/d in 2020 as projects ramp up production. Uncertainties in oil markets affect long-term planning and operations in the GOM, and the timelines of future projects may change accordingly.
Source: Rystad Energy
Because of the amount of time needed to discover and develop large offshore projects, oil production in the GOM is less sensitive to short-term oil price movements than onshore production in the Lower 48 states. In 2015 and early 2016, decreasing profit margins and reduced expectations for a quick oil price recovery prompted many GOM operators to reconsider future exploration spending and to restructure or delay drilling rig contracts, causing average monthly rig counts to decline through 2018.
Crude oil price increases in 2017 and 2018 relative to lows in 2015 and 2016 have not yet had a significant effect on operations in the GOM, but they have the potential to contribute to increasing rig counts and field discoveries in the coming years. Unlike onshore operations, falling rig counts do not affect current production levels, but instead they affect the discovery of future fields and the start-up of new projects.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Refinery Report
The API gravity of crude oil input to U.S. refineries has generally increased, or gotten lighter, since 2011 because of changes in domestic production and imports. Regionally, refinery crude slates—or the mix of crude oil grades that a refinery is processing—have become lighter in the East Coast, Gulf Coast, and West Coast regions, and they have become slightly heavier in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions.
API gravity is measured as the inverse of the density of a petroleum liquid relative to water. The higher the API gravity, the lower the density of the petroleum liquid, so light oils have high API gravities. Crude oil with an API gravity greater than 38 degrees is generally considered light crude oil; crude oil with an API gravity of 22 degrees or below is considered heavy crude oil.
The crude slate processed in refineries situated along the Gulf Coast—the region with the most refining capacity in the United States—has had the largest increase in API gravity, increasing from an average of 30.0 degrees in 2011 to an average of 32.6 degrees in 2018. The West Coast had the heaviest crude slate in 2018 at 28.2 degrees, and the East Coast had the lightest of the three regions at 34.8 degrees.
Production of increasingly lighter crude oil in the United States has contributed to the overall lightening of the crude oil slate for U.S. refiners. The fastest-growing category of domestic production has been crude oil with an API gravity greater than 40 degrees, according to data in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Monthly Crude Oil and Natural Gas Production Report.
Since 2015, when EIA began collecting crude oil production data by API gravity, light crude oil production in the Lower 48 states has grown from an annual average of 4.6 million barrels per day (b/d) to 6.4 million b/d in the first seven months of 2019.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Crude Oil and Natural Gas Production Report
When setting crude oil slates, refiners consider logistical constraints and the cost of transportation, as well as their unique refinery configuration. For example, nearly all (more than 99% in 2018) crude oil imports to the Midwest and the Rocky Mountain regions come from Canada because of geographic proximity and existing pipeline and rail infrastructure between these regions.
Crude oil imports from Canada, which consist of mostly heavy crude oil, have increased by 67% since 2011 because of increased Canadian production. Crude oil imports from Canada have accounted for a greater share of refinery inputs in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions, leading to heavier refinery crude slates in these regions.
By comparison, crude oil production in Texas tends to be lighter: Texas accounted for half of crude oil production above 40 degrees API in the United States in 2018. The share of domestic crude oil in the Gulf Coast refinery crude oil slate increased from 36% in 2011 to 70% in 2018. As a result, the change in the average API gravity of crude oil processed in refineries in the Gulf Coast region was the largest increase among all regions in the United States during that period.
East Coast refineries have three ways to receive crude oil shipments, depending on which are more economical: by rail from the Midwest, by coastwise-compliant (Jones Act) tankers from the Gulf Coast, or by importing. From 2011 to 2018, the share of imported crude oil in the East Coast region decreased from 95% to 81% as the share of domestic crude oil inputs increased. Conversely, the share of imported crude oil at West Coast refineries increased from 46% in 2011 to 51% in 2018.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 7 October 2019 – Brent: US$58/b; WTI: US$52/b
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