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Last Updated: March 6, 2020
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U.S. crude oil exports increased 45% to nearly 3 million b/d in 2019

U.S. crude oil exports averaged 2.98 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2019, an increase of 930,000 b/d (45%) from 2018 (Figure 1). The number of destinations for U.S. crude oil exports increased from 41 to 44, and Canada continued to receive the largest share (15%, or 459,000 b/d), followed by South Korea (14%, or 426,000 b/d). U.S. crude oil exports to China, the third-largest export destination in 2018, fell by nearly 100,000 b/d to average 133,000 b/d in 2019. Decreased U.S. crude oil exports to China were more than offset by increases to other destinations, resulting in shifting trade patterns. The growth in U.S. crude oil exports was driven by increasing U.S. crude oil production, expanding domestic infrastructure, and increased global demand for light, low-sulfur crude oils.

Figure 1. Annual U.S. crude oil exports (1920-2019)

Of the 15 top destinations for U.S. crude oil exports, 8 are in Asia and Oceania and 5 are in Europe. The eight destinations in Asia and Oceania represent 1.3 million b/d, or a 43% share of total U.S. crude oil exports in 2019, and the five destinations in Europe represent 779,000 b/d, or a 26% share (Figure 2).

Figure 2. 2019 U.S. crude oil export destinations

China dropped from the third-largest destination for U.S. crude oil exports in 2018 to the seventh-largest in 2019. In the summer of 2018, trade negotiations between the United States and China and unfavorable prices led China to reduce imports of U.S. crude oil, which continued into 2019. In the first-half of 2018, the United States exported 389,000 b/d of crude oil to China, which made China the largest destination for U.S. crude oil exports during that period. However, in the second half of 2018, the United States exported just 77,000 b/d on average of crude oil to China. In 2019, China received an average of 133,000 b/d of U.S. crude oil exports compared with 232,000 b/d in full-year 2018.

Although exports to China declined, U.S. crude oil exports to other destinations increased, most notably to South Korea, the Netherlands, and India. In 2019, U.S. exports of crude oil (Figure 3)

  • To South Korea rose from 242,000 b/d in 2018 to 426,000 b/d, an increase of 184,000 b/d (76%)
  • To the Netherlands more than doubled from 132,000 b/d in 2018 to 281,000 b/d, an increase of 149,000 b/d (113%)
  • To India increased by more than 100,000 b/d (69%)

Figure 3. Change in U.S. crude oil export destinations (2018-19)

Increased U.S. crude oil production, which rose 1.24 million b/d in 2019 (11%) over the previous year, allowed for greater volumes of U.S. crude oil exports. The increased production is mostly of light, sweet crude oils, but U.S. Gulf Coast refineries are complex and largely optimized to process heavy, sour crude oils. Higher crude oil production and a mismatch between crude oil type and refinery configuration increases the availability of U.S. crude oil production for exports.

Another factor enabling increased U.S. crude oil exports has been the completion of pipeline capacity from producing regions such as the Permian in West Texas to the U.S. Gulf Coast. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) liquids pipeline project database, about 2.8 million b/d of additional pipeline capacity was scheduled to be completed in 2019 in Texas alone.

In addition, the lead-up to the 2020 International Maritime Organization (IMO) marine fuel sulfur regulation likely contributed to increased demand for U.S. crude oil by global refineries, particularly in South Korea and the Netherlands. Increasing the amount of light, sweet crude oils that a refinery processes is one way to increase the production of IMO-compliant low-sulfur marine fuels and minimize the production of residual fuel oil. Although details on the exact gravity and sulfur content of U.S. crude oil exports is not collected in a way that allows specific grade distinctions by official U.S. Customs and Border Protection export forms (on which EIA exports data are based), most U.S. crude oil exports are likely light and low in sulfur content. This characteristic made U.S. crude oil exports attractive to many refiners as they prepared for IMO 2020 in the latter half of 2019.

U.S. average regular gasoline and diesel prices fall

The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price fell more than 4 cents from the previous week to $2.42 per gallon on March 2, less than one cent higher than a year ago. The Midwest price declined nearly 6 cents to $2.30 per gallon, the East Coast price declined nearly 5 cents to $2.35 per gallon, the Gulf Coast price fell nearly 4 cents to $2.11 per gallon, the Rocky Mountain price declined more than 2 cents to $2.42 per gallon, and the West Coast price fell nearly 1 cent to $3.13 per gallon.

The U.S. average diesel fuel price fell more than 3 cents from the previous week to $2.85 per gallon on March 2, 23 cents lower than a year ago. The West Coast price fell nearly 4 cents to $3.42 per gallon, the East Coast and Midwest prices each fell more than 3 cents to $2.90 per gallon and $2.73 per gallon, respectively, the Gulf Coast price fell nearly 3 cents to $2.63 per gallon, and the Rocky Mountain price fell more than 2 cents to $2.83 per gallon.

Propane/propylene inventories decline

U.S. propane/propylene stocks decreased by 3.6 million barrels last week to 70.0 million barrels as of February 28, 2020, 18.8 million barrels (36.7%) greater than the five-year (2015-19) average inventory levels for this same time of year. Gulf Coast inventories decreased by 1.6 million barrels, Midwest inventories decreased by 1.5 million barrels, and East Coast and Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories each decreased by 0.3 million barrels. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 7.7% of total propane/propylene inventories.

Residential heating fuel prices decrease

As of March 2, 2020, residential heating oil prices averaged more than $2.82 per gallon, nearly 7 cents per gallon below last week’s price and almost 41 cents per gallon lower than last year’s price at this time. Wholesale heating oil prices averaged nearly $1.61 per gallon, more than 18 cents per gallon below last week’s price and almost 53 cents per gallon lower than a year ago.

Residential propane prices averaged nearly $1.97 per gallon, more than 1 cent per gallon below last week’s price and more than 45 cents per gallon below last year’s price. Wholesale propane prices averaged nearly $0.57 per gallon, more than 3 cents per gallon lower than last week’s price and almost 26 cents per gallon below last year’s price.

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The United States consumed a record amount of renewable energy in 2019

In 2019, consumption of renewable energy in the United States grew for the fourth year in a row, reaching a record 11.5 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), or 11% of total U.S. energy consumption. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) new U.S. renewable energy consumption by source and sector chart published in the Monthly Energy Review shows how much renewable energy by source is consumed in each sector.

In its Monthly Energy Review, EIA converts sources of energy to common units of heat, called British thermal units (Btu), to compare different types of energy that are more commonly measured in units that are not directly comparable, such as gallons of biofuels compared with kilowatthours of wind energy. EIA uses a fossil fuel equivalence to calculate primary energy consumption of noncombustible renewables such as wind, hydro, solar, and geothermal.

U.S. renewable energy consumption by sector

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

Wind energy in the United States is almost exclusively used by wind-powered turbines to generate electricity in the electric power sector, and it accounted for about 24% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019. Wind surpassed hydroelectricity to become the most-consumed source of renewable energy on an annual basis in 2019.

Wood and waste energy, including wood, wood pellets, and biomass waste from landfills, accounted for about 24% of U.S. renewable energy use in 2019. Industrial, commercial, and electric power facilities use wood and waste as fuel to generate electricity, to produce heat, and to manufacture goods. About 2% of U.S. households used wood as their primary source of heat in 2019.

Hydroelectric power is almost exclusively used by water-powered turbines to generate electricity in the electric power sector and accounted for about 22% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019. U.S. hydropower consumption has remained relatively consistent since the 1960s, but it fluctuates with seasonal rainfall and drought conditions.

Biofuels, including fuel ethanol, biodiesel, and other renewable fuels, accounted for about 20% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019. Biofuels usually are blended with petroleum-based motor gasoline and diesel and are consumed as liquid fuels in automobiles. Industrial consumption of biofuels accounts for about 36% of U.S. biofuel energy consumption.

Solar energy, consumed to generate electricity or directly as heat, accounted for about 9% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019 and had the largest percentage growth among renewable sources in 2019. Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, including rooftop panels, and solar thermal power plants use sunlight to generate electricity. Some residential and commercial buildings heat with solar heating systems.

October, 20 2020
Natural gas generators make up largest share of U.S. electricity generation capacity

operating natural-gas fired electric generating capacity by online year

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

Based on the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) annual survey of electric generators, natural gas-fired generators accounted for 43% of operating U.S. electricity generating capacity in 2019. These natural gas-fired generators provided 39% of electricity generation in 2019, more than any other source. Most of the natural gas-fired capacity added in recent decades uses combined-cycle technology, which surpassed coal-fired generators in 2018 to become the technology with the most electricity generating capacity in the United States.

Technological improvements have led to improved efficiency of natural gas generators since the mid-1980s, when combined-cycle plants began replacing older, less efficient steam turbines. For steam turbines, boilers combust fuel to generate steam that drives a turbine to generate electricity. Combustion turbines use a fuel-air mixture to spin a gas turbine. Combined-cycle units, as their name implies, combine these technologies: a fuel-air mixture spins gas turbines to generate electricity, and the excess heat from the gas turbine is used to generate steam for a steam turbine that generates additional electricity.

Combined-cycle generators generally operate for extended periods; combustion turbines and steam turbines are typically only used at times of peak load. Relatively few steam turbines have been installed since the late 1970s, and many steam turbines have been retired in recent years.

natural gas-fired electric gnerating capacity by retirement year

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

Not only are combined-cycle systems more efficient than steam or combustion turbines alone, the combined-cycle systems installed more recently are more efficient than the combined-cycle units installed more than a decade ago. These changes in efficiency have reduced the amount of natural gas needed to produce the same amount of electricity. Combined-cycle generators consume 80% of the natural gas used to generate electric power but provide 85% of total natural gas-fired electricity.

operating natural gas-fired electric generating capacity in selected states

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

Every U.S. state, except Vermont and Hawaii, has at least one utility-scale natural gas electric power plant. Texas, Florida, and California—the three states with the most electricity consumption in 2019—each have more than 35 gigawatts of natural gas-fired capacity. In many states, the majority of this capacity is combined-cycle technology, but 44% of New York’s natural gas capacity is steam turbines and 67% of Illinois’s natural gas capacity is combustion turbines.

October, 19 2020
EIA’s International Energy Outlook analyzes electricity markets in India, Africa, and Asia

Countries that are not members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Asia, including China and India, and in Africa are home to more than two-thirds of the world population. These regions accounted for 44% of primary energy consumed by the electric sector in 2019, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected they will reach 56% by 2050 in the Reference case in the International Energy Outlook 2019 (IEO2019). Changes in these economies significantly affect global energy markets.

Today, EIA is releasing its International Energy Outlook 2020 (IEO2020), which analyzes generating technology, fuel price, and infrastructure uncertainty in the electricity markets of Africa, Asia, and India. A related webcast presentation will begin this morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

global energy consumption for power generation

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2020 (IEO2020)

IEO2020 focuses on the electricity sector, which consumes a growing share of the world’s primary energy. The makeup of the electricity sector is changing rapidly. The use of cost-efficient wind and solar technologies is increasing, and, in many regions of the world, use of lower-cost liquefied natural gas is also increasing. In IEO2019, EIA projected renewables to rise from about 20% of total energy consumed for electricity generation in 2010 to the largest single energy source by 2050.

The following are some key findings of IEO2020:

  • As energy use grows in Asia, some cases indicate more than 50% of electricity could be generated from renewables by 2050.
    IEO2020 features cases that consider differing natural gas prices and renewable energy capital costs in Asia, showing how these costs could shift the fuel mix for generating electricity in the region either further toward fossil fuels or toward renewables.
  • Africa could meet its electricity growth needs in different ways depending on whether development comes as an expansion of the central grid or as off-grid systems.
    Falling costs for solar photovoltaic installations and increased use of off-grid distribution systems have opened up technology options for the development of electricity infrastructure in Africa. Africa’s power generation mix could shift away from current coal-fired and natural gas-fired technologies used in the existing central grid toward off-grid resources, including extensive use of non-hydroelectric renewable generation sources.
  • Transmission infrastructure affects options available to change the future fuel mix for electricity generation in India.
    IEO2020 cases demonstrate the ways that electricity grid interconnections influence fuel choices for electricity generation in India. In cases where India relies more on a unified grid that can transmit electricity across regions, the share of renewables significantly increases and the share of coal decreases between 2019 and 2050. More limited movement of electricity favors existing in-region generation, which is mostly fossil fuels.

IEO2020 builds on the Reference case presented in IEO2019. The models, economic assumptions, and input oil prices from the IEO2019 Reference case largely remained unchanged, but EIA adjusted specific elements or assumptions to explore areas of uncertainty such as the rapid growth of renewable energy.

Because IEO2020 is based on the IEO2019 modeling platform and because it focuses on long-term electricity market dynamics, it does not include the impacts of COVID-19 and related mitigation efforts. The Annual Energy Outlook 2021 (AEO2021) and IEO2021 will both feature analyses of the impact of COVID-19 mitigation efforts on energy markets.

Asia infographic, as described in the article text


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2020 (IEO2020)
Note: Click to enlarge.

With the IEO2020 release, EIA is publishing new Plain Language documentation of EIA’s World Energy Projection System (WEPS), the modeling system that EIA uses to produce IEO projections. EIA’s new Handbook of Energy Modeling Methods includes sections on most WEPS components, and EIA will release more sections in the coming months.

October, 16 2020