In the first half of 2019, U.S. exports of crude oil increased to average 2.9 million barrels per day (b/d), an increase of 966,000 b/d from the first half of 2018. Also in the first half of 2019, U.S. crude oil exports set a new record-high monthly average of 3.2 million b/d in June 2019 (Figure 1). The number of U.S. crude oil export destinations also continued to grow, and now exceeds the number of U.S. crude oil import sources.
Asia was the largest regional destination for U.S. crude oil exports—1.3 million b/d in the first half of 2019—followed by destinations in Western Europe, which received 824,000 b/d. U.S. crude oil exports to North America, which almost exclusively go to Canada (the largest single destination for U.S. crude oil exports globally) did not change much from the first half of 2018 to the first half of 2019, averaging 458,000 b/d.
U.S. crude oil exports to Asia grew significantly in the first half of 2019, up 472,000 b/d (58%) compared with the same period in 2018, despite a large decrease in exports to China. U.S. crude oil exports to China in the first half of 2019 averaged 248,000 b/d (64%) less than the same period last year. This decrease largely reflects continuing trends from the second half of 2018 when U.S. crude oil exports to China decreased significantly.
Increased U.S. crude oil exports to other destinations in Asia offset the drop in volumes to China. U.S. crude oil exports to South Korea increased 278,000 b/d (246%), exports to India increased 154,000 b/d (114%), and exports to Taiwan increased 109,000 b/d (133%) in the first half of 2019 compared with the first half of 2018.
U.S. crude oil exports to Western Europe also increased 327,000 b/d (66%) during this time. First-half 2019 exports to the Netherlands increased 173,000 b/d (192%) and exports to the United Kingdom increased 74,000 b/d (53%) compared with first half 2018 (Figure 2).
As U.S. crude oil export volumes have increased, so have the number of export destinations. During first half of 2019, the number of U.S. crude oil export destinations surpassed the number of U.S. crude oil import sources. In 2009, the United States imported crude oil from an average of 35 sources each month. A decade later, in the first half of 2019, the average number of sources fell to 26. After the restrictions on exporting domestic crude oil were lifted at the end of 2015, the number of U.S. crude oil export destinations has increased to more than 30 as of the end of the first half of 2019 (Figure 3). Between January 2016 (the first full month of unrestricted U.S. crude oil exports) and June 2019, U.S. crude oil production has increased by 2.9 million b/d. During that same period, U.S. crude oil exports increased 2.7 million b/d, the equivalent of 98% of the absolute crude oil production increase.
Increasing U.S. crude oil production has both reduced crude oil imports and increased crude oil exports, but the reasons for changes in each are complex.
Fewer crude oil import sources is the result of increased U.S. production of light-sweet crude oils whereas most U.S. refineries are configured to process medium- to heavy- sour crude oils. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) report Technical Options for Processing Additional Light Tight Oil Volumes Within the United States, explains how U.S. refineries have accommodated much of the growth in U.S. crude oil production since 2010 with two limited- or no-investment-cost options: displacing imports of crude oil (primarily light crude oil, but also medium crude oil) from countries other than Canada and increasing refinery utilization rates. Displacing light crude oil imports has both reduced the volume of crude oil the United States imports and the number of sources.
The increase in the number of U.S. crude oil export destinations is the result of
National and international regulations increasingly limit the amount of sulfur present in transportation fuels. As global demand for heavy residual oils declines, many less complex refineries outside the United States, which can’t process and remove sulfur from heavy-sour crude oils, are processing more of the lighter and sweeter crude oils. To supply this increasing demand, U.S. port infrastructure along the U.S. Gulf Coast is expanding to accommodate increased crude oil tanker traffic and larger crude oil tankers loading for export. In addition, new and expanded pipelines are being built to transport crude oil from areas such as the Permian and Eagle Ford to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
U.S. average regular gasoline and diesel prices fall
The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price fell more than 1 cent from the previous week to $2.64 per gallon on September 30, 22 cents lower than the same time last year. The Midwest price fell by nearly 10 cents to $2.49 per gallon, the East Coast price fell by more than 3 cents to $2.51 per gallon, and the Gulf Coast price fell by nearly 3 cents to $2.33 per gallon. The West Coast price rose by 21 cents to $3.55 per gallon, and the Rock Mountain price increased by more than 1 cent to $2.71 per gallon.
The U.S. average diesel fuel price fell nearly 2 cents to $3.07 per gallon on September 30, 25 cents lower than a year ago. The Gulf Coast price fell by more than 3 cents to $2.83 per gallon, the East Coast price fell by nearly 2 cents to $3.07 per gallon, the West Coast and Midwest prices fell by nearly 1 cent, remaining at $3.65 per gallon and $2.99 per gallon, respectively, and the Rocky Mountain price fell less than 1 cent, remaining at $3.03 per gallon.
Propane/propylene inventories rise
U.S. propane/propylene stocks increased by 1.0 million barrels last week to 100.6 million barrels as of September 27, 2019, 13.0 million barrels (14.8%) greater than the five-year (2014-18) average inventory levels for this same time of year. Midwest, Gulf Coast, and East Coast inventories increased by 0.5 million barrels, 0.4 million barrels, and 0.2 million barrels, respectively. Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories decreased by 0.1 million barrels. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 4.3% of total propane/propylene inventories.
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 13 January 2020 – Brent: US$64/b; WTI: US$59/b
Headlines of the week
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 2020
In its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), released on January 14, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that generation from natural gas-fired power plants in the electric power sector will grow by 1.3% in 2020. This growth rate would be the slowest growth rate in natural gas generation since 2017. EIA forecasts that generation from nonhydropower renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, will grow by 15% in 2020—the fastest rate in four years. Forecast generation from coal-fired power plants declines by 13% in 2020.
During the past decade, the electric power sector has been retiring coal-fired generation plants while adding more natural gas generating capacity. In 2019, EIA estimates that 12.7 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired capacity in the United States was retired, equivalent to 5% of the total existing coal-fired capacity at the beginning of the year. An additional 5.8 GW of U.S. coal capacity is scheduled to retire in 2020, contributing to a forecast 13% decline in coal-fired generation this year. In contrast, EIA estimates that the electric power sector has added or plans to add 11.4 GW of capacity at natural gas combined-cycle power plants in 2019 and 2020.
Generating capacity fueled by renewable energy sources, especially solar and wind, has increased steadily in recent years. EIA expects the U.S. electric power sector will add 19.3 GW of new utility-scale solar capacity in 2019 and 2020, a 65% increase from 2018 capacity levels. EIA expects a 32% increase of new wind capacity—or nearly 30 GW—to be installed in 2019 and 2020. Much of this new renewables capacity comes online at the end of the year, which affects generation trends in the following year.
Forecast generation mix varies in each of the 11 STEO electricity supply regions. A large proportion of the retired coal-fired capacity is located in the mid-Atlantic area, where PJM manages the dispatch of electricity. EIA forecasts that coal generation in the mid-Atlantic will decline by 37 billion kilowatthours (kWh) in 2020. Some of this decline is offset by more generation from mid-Atlantic natural gas-fired power plants; EIA expects generation from these plants to grow by 23 billion kWh.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 2020
In the Midwest, where the Midcontinent ISO (MISO) manages electricity, EIA expects coal generation to fall in 2020 by 33 billion kWh. This decline is offset by an increase in natural gas electricity generation (12 billion kWh) and by nonhydropower renewable energy sources (13 billion kWh). The regional increase in renewables is primarily a result of new wind generating capacity.
The electric power sector in the area of Texas managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is planning to see large increases in generating capacity from both wind and solar. EIA expects this new capacity will increase generation from nonhydropower renewable energy sources by 24 billion kWh this year. EIA expects the increased ERCOT renewable generation will lead to a regional decline of natural gas-fired generation and coal generation of 14 billion kWh for each fuel source in 2020.
EIA expects these trends to continue into 2021. EIA forecasts U.S. generation from nonhydropower renewable energy sources will grow by 17% next year as the electric power sector continues expanding solar and wind capacity. This increase in renewables, along with forecast increases in natural gas fuel costs, contributes to EIA’s forecast of a 2.3% decline in natural gas-fired generation in 2021. U.S. coal generation in 2021 is forecast to fall by 3.2%.