US net imports down, exports soar; just another day at the office

A few eye-popping numbers were in the EIA monthly report on US oil use in December. It shows the shale gale in full bloom.

  • US total net imports were 5.057 million b/d. That’s down about 1 million b/d from a year ago. It’s down about 3.4 million b/d from three years ago. It’s down more than 8 million b/d from the all-time high of 13.354 million b/d in October 2005. It’s easily the lowest in the post-shale era.
  • Take away the Canadian net import figure of 2.602 million b/d, and you’re dealing with what might be called “at-risk” net import dependence of just under 2.5 million b/d. That’s in a country that had “products supplied” of 19.081 million b/d in December, up about 1 million b/d from the end of 2012. So US net import dependence continues to slide, and demand continues to rise.
  • Crude exports were 190,000 b/d, all of it to Canada. It’s a healthy number, but it isn’t a record.
  • Total exports of all crude and products were a staggering 4.44 million b/d. Three years ago, they were almost 2 million b/d less than that. The figure for December is a record, by almost half a million barrels per day. The US exported more petroleum products than all but three countries in the world–Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US itself–actually produce in the form of crude.
  • What’s interesting about the export figure are the smaller areas of exports, not the big categories that have steadily driven US exports over the past few years. Total distillate exports of 1.232 million b/d were less than the July record figure of 1.383 million b/d; gasoline exports of 576,000 b/d were close to a record. But the US exported record amounts of gasoline blending components (192,000 b/d, previous record 141,000 b/d a month earlier); special naphthas (250,000 b/d; it had never even been six figures before, and some analysts have been predicting for awhile that changes in the gravity of the average barrel, combined with the ethane glut, was going to lead to the US being extremely long naphtha); and petroleum coke, one of the highest ever at 577,000 b/d.
  • Refinery runs cranked away at 92%. That’s not surprising; the US exported 4.254 million b/d of products, and you can’t do that unless your refineries are operating at a high level. The run rate isn’t a record–there have been a few times in history where it exceeded 95%–but it is clearly on the high side. It’s the highest rate for a December since 2004. For the year, US refineries ran on average at 88.3%, just a touch more than a 10-year average run rate that was slightly less than 88%.

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  1. Eric at March 2, 2014 1:48 pm

    On a geopolitical tangent, we don’t take much product in from Russia and most of it falls under the “unfinished oils” category, but how easy/difficult would it be to replace that product if we chose to do so politically?

    • John Kingston at March 3, 2014 6:01 am

      How do you replace “politically” the dozens and dozens of decisions that go into those transactions? It would need to be some sort of sweeping set of sanctions. That may be doable politically, but it won’t happen anytime soon.


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