Among the torrent of information in the Energy Information Administration’s monthly data released late last week, a new milestone was reached.
For the first time since early 1991, US net imports of petroleum fell to less than 7 million b/d.
The net import figure for October, the data’s most recent month, was 6.833 million b/d. There are plenty of comparisons that number could be put up against, but the most notable is to contrast it to the all-time monthly high for US net imports: 13.354 million b/d, also recorded in an October, this one in 2005. So that’s getting close to an almost 50% drop from the record level of net imports.
Of course, those are one-off comparisons. What is a more interesting contrast is to take the 2005 average level of net imports, which came in at 12.55 million b/d, and wait two months to see what the 2012 average was, when all the data for the year will have been released. Through October, that average was 7.626 million b/d, for a decline of almost 40% from the highest annual average. If net imports clock in at 7 million b/d the next two months, the year average for 2012 will be more than 5 million b/d less than that of 2005.
Total petroleum exports at 3.255 million b/d were the third highest ever (last December’s 3.677 million b/d was the top figure). The booming shale gas business led to the highest export ever of NGLs at 331,000 b/d. All the other categories of exports were at strong levels, but none set records. It was simply big numbers in a whole range of categories: gasoline, distillates and petroleum coke.
The US continued to dry up as a market for crude exporters; US crude imports of just under 8.1 million b/d were the lowest since a one-off number in early 2000. Excluding that, imports haven’t been this consistently low since early 1998.
And why were imports able to decline so precipitously and the US could still export what it did? Because US crude production soared to 6.82 million b/d from 6.484 from just a month earlier. That jump may look large, but remember that it came after a September in which the fallout from Hurricane Isaac at one point shut in more than 70% of US Gulf production. (Interesting side note: since the US has been keeping records of US production, going back to the 20s, the other months with one-month output gains in excess of 300,000 b/d are almost all in October or November, right after the heart of hurricane season.)
One thing that wasn’t a reason for the big drop in net import dependence was demand. Under the “products supplied” category, the EIA reported October demand of 18.722 million b/d. That’s up almost 600,000 b/d from a month earlier, and is more than the 10-month average of 18.59 million b/d. And with the combination of relatively strong demand, and the lowest net imports since the early 1990’s, US net import dependence was a mere 36.4%.
As we wrote a few months ago, the net import dependence figure can fluctuate, but more recently had been somewhat steady. The October figure breaks that trend.
Regardless of what it does next month, it’s interesting to ponder what would the value of the US dollar be if the country was still buying net petroleum barrels in excess of 12 million b/d, month after month, like it was doing in 2005.
|Request a free trial of: Oilgram News|
|Oilgram News brings fast-breaking global petroleum and gas news to your desktop every day. Our extensive global network of correspondents report on supply and demand trends, corporate news, government actions, exploration, technology, and much more.|