September was the first month the United States recorded exporting more petroleum than it imported
In September 2019, the United States exported 89,000 barrels per day (b/d) more petroleum (crude oil and petroleum products) than it imported, the first month this happened since monthly records began in 1973 (Figure 1).
Net petroleum trade is calculated as total imports of crude oil and petroleum products less total exports of crude oil and petroleum products. The United States currently imports more crude oil than it exports, but it exports more petroleum products than it imports (Figure 2). The balance of this petroleum trade activity has been changing during the past 10 years, from annual net petroleum imports of 9.6 million b/d in 2009 to annual net imports of 2.3 million b/d in 2018. Long-running changes in U.S. trading patterns for both crude oil and petroleum products have resulted in a steady decrease in overall U.S. net petroleum imports.
Increasing U.S. crude oil production, which rose from an average of 5.3 million b/d in 2009 to 12.1 million b/d in 2019 through September, has resulted in a decrease in U.S. crude oil imports from an average of 9.0 million b/d in 2009 to 7.0 million b/d through September 2019. The decrease in U.S. crude oil imports also corresponded with a decrease in the number of sources the United States imported crude oil from.
In December 2015, the United States lifted restrictions on exporting domestically produced crude oil. Since then, U.S. crude oil exports have been the largest contributor to U.S. petroleum export growth; U.S. crude oil exports have grown from 591,000 b/d in 2016 to 2.8 million b/d in 2019 through September. Despite increasing exports of crude oil, however, the United States remains a net importer of crude oil. The United States continues importing primarily heavy high-sulfur crude oils that most U.S. refineries are configured to process, and more than 60% of U.S. crude oil imports come from Canada and Mexico.
At the same time, U.S. refineries responded to increasing domestic and international demand for petroleum products (such as distillate fuel, motor gasoline, and jet fuel) by increasing throughput. Gross inputs into U.S. refineries rose from an annual average of 14.6 million b/d in 2009 to 17.0 million b/d through the third quarter 2019, and they have regularly set new monthly record highs.
The increase in refinery production of petroleum products has outpaced the increase in U.S. consumption, contributing to an increase in petroleum product exports. The United States has gone from net petroleum product imports of 698,000 b/d in 2009 to net petroleum product exports of 3.2 million b/d so far in 2019. In the first nine months of 2019, the United States exported 1.4 million b/d of distillate, 1.1 million b/d of propane, and 864,000 b/d of motor gasoline, the three largest petroleum product exports.
Although seasonal monthly import and export patterns may result in month-to-month back and forth changes between net imports and net exports for some products such as motor gasoline, the United States has been a net exporter of several products on an annual basis (Figure 3). The United States has been an annual net exporter of distillate and residual fuel since 2008, a net exporter of hydrocarbon gas liquids and jet fuel since 2011, and a net exporter of motor gasoline since 2016.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) had forecast that the United States would transition to net petroleum exports in September 2019. In the November STEO, EIA forecasts that U.S. net petroleum exports will continue to increase, averaging 751,000 b/d in 2020, the first time that the United States is expected to be a net petroleum exporter on an annual basis.
U.S. average regular gasoline price falls, diesel price increases
The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price fell less than 1 cent from the previous week to remain at $2.58 per gallon on December 2, 12 cents higher than the same time last year. The West Coast price fell more than 6 cents to $3.41 per gallon, the Gulf Coast price fell more than 1 cent to $2.23 per gallon, and the Rocky Mountain price fell nearly 1 cent to $2.82 per gallon. The Midwest price increased by more than 2 cents to $2.42 per gallon, and East Coast price increased by nearly 2 cents to $2.48 per gallon.
The U.S. average diesel fuel price rose less than 1 cent, remaining at $3.07 per gallon on December 2, 14 cents lower than a year ago. The Midwest price rose by more than 1 cent to $2.98 per gallon, the East Coast price rose by nearly 1 cent to $3.06 per gallon, and the Gulf Coast price rose by less than 1 cent to remain at $2.78 per gallon. The West Coast price fell by nearly 2 cents to $3.70 per gallon, and the Rocky Mountain price fell by nearly 1 cent to $3.24 per gallon.
Propane/propylene inventories decline
U.S. propane/propylene stocks decreased by 1.7 million barrels last week to 91.8 million barrels as of November 29, 2019, 4.1 million barrels (4.6%) greater than the five-year (2014-18) average inventory levels for this same time of year. Midwest, East Coast, and Gulf Coast inventories decreased by 0.8 million barrels, 0.7 million barrels, and 0.4 million barrels, respectively. Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories increased by 0.2 million barrels. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 5.8% of total propane/propylene inventories.
Residential heating fuel prices increase
As of December 2, 2019, residential heating oil prices averaged nearly $3.01 per gallon, almost 2 cents per gallon above last week’s price but more than 19 cents per gallon below last year’s price at this time. Wholesale heating oil prices averaged almost $2.05 per gallon, less than 1 cent per gallon more than last week’s price and nearly 8 cents per gallon more than a year ago.
Residential propane prices averaged nearly $2.04 per gallon, almost 4 cents per gallon higher than last week’s price but more than 39 cents per gallon lower than a year ago. Wholesale propane prices averaged almost $0.91 per gallon, nearly 1 cent per gallon higher than last week’s price and more than 6 cents per gallon above last year’s price.
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In its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), released on January 14, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts year-over-year decreases in energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions through 2021. After decreasing by 2.1% in 2019, energy-related CO2 emissions will decrease by 2.0% in 2020 and again by 1.5% in 2021 for a third consecutive year of declines.
These declines come after an increase in 2018 when weather-related factors caused energy-related CO2 emissions to rise by 2.9%. If this forecast holds, energy-related CO2 emissions will have declined in 7 of the 10 years from 2012 to 2021. With the forecast declines, the 2021 level of fewer than 5 billion metric tons would be the first time emissions have been at that level since 1991.
After a slight decline in 2019, EIA expects petroleum-related CO2 emissions to be flat in 2020 and decline slightly in 2021. The transportation sector uses more than two-thirds of total U.S. petroleum consumption. Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) grow nearly 1% annually during the forecast period. In the short term, increases in VMT are largely offset by increases in vehicle efficiency.
Winter temperatures in New England, which were colder than normal in 2019, led to increased petroleum consumption for heating. New England uses more petroleum as a heating fuel than other parts of the United States. EIA expects winter temperatures will revert to normal, contributing to a flattening in overall petroleum demand.
Natural gas-related CO2 increased by 4.2% in 2019, and EIA expects that it will rise by 1.4% in 2020. However, EIA expects a 1.7% decline in natural gas-related CO2 in 2021 because of warmer winter weather and less demand for natural gas for heating.
Changes in the relative prices of coal and natural gas can cause fuel switching in the electric power sector. Small price changes can yield relatively large shifts in generation shares between coal and natural gas. EIA expects coal-related CO2 will decline by 10.8% in 2020 after declining by 12.7% in 2019 because of low natural gas prices. EIA expects the rate of coal-related CO2 to decline to be less in 2021 at 2.7%.
The declines in CO2 emissions are driven by two factors that continue from recent historical trends. EIA expects that less carbon-intensive and more efficient natural gas-fired generation will replace coal-fired generation and that generation from renewable energy—especially wind and solar—will increase.
As total generation declines during the forecast period, increases in renewable generation decrease the share of fossil-fueled generation. EIA estimates that coal and natural gas electric generation combined, which had a 63% share of generation in 2018, fell to 62% in 2019 and will drop to 59% in 2020 and 58% in 2021.
Coal-fired generation alone has fallen from 28% in 2018 to 24% in 2019 and will fall further to 21% in 2020 and 2021. The natural gas-fired generation share rises from 37% in 2019 to 38% in 2020, but it declines to 37% in 2021. In general, when the share of natural gas increases relative to coal, the carbon intensity of the electricity supply decreases. Increasing the share of renewable generation further decreases the carbon intensity.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 2020
Note: CO2 is carbon dioxide.
GEO ExPro Vol. 16, No. 6 was published on 9th December 2019 bringing light to the latest science and technology activity in the global geoscience community within the oil, gas and energy sector.
This issue focusses on oil and gas exploration in frontier regions within Europe, with stories and articles discussing new modelling and mapping technologies available to the industry. This issue also presents several articles discussing the discipline of geochemistry and how it can be used to further enhance hydrocarbon exploration.
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 13 January 2020 – Brent: US$64/b; WTI: US$59/b
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