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EIA: US crude oil exports reached record levels in 2020 and remain high in 2021

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Despite volatility in global oil markets, US crude oil exports reached a record high in 2020, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

So far this year (as of 9 July 2021), US crude oil exports have averaged 3 million bpd. The most recent four-week rolling average of US crude oil exports reached 3.51 million bpd, according to EIA’s ‘Weekly Petroleum Status Report’. In 2013, the US government lifted export restrictions on minimally processed ultra-light oil. In the summer of 2015, the US and Mexico entered into an oil exchange agreement, and the restrictions on oil exports were fully lifted in December 2015. US crude oil exports have increased significantly since 2015 and have averaged around 3 million bpd every year since 2019.

The four-week rolling average of US crude oil export volumes has not fallen below 2 million bpd during the past three years, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused significant crude oil price drops, reduced demand and reduced production in US and global oil markets.

High oil prices have contributed to steady crude oil exports recently. During the week of 9 July 2021, the international crude oil benchmark (Brent) spot price averaged US$76.13/bbl. and the domestic crude oil benchmark (West Texas Intermediate, or WTI) spot price averaged US$73.35/bbl. Brent and WTI prices both remained above US$70/bbl between 8 June and 16 July 2021. Weekly export data from EIA’s ‘Weekly Petroleum Status Report’ show a slight rise in crude oil exports since the end of June 2021.

Even with a narrow price difference between the WTI crude oil price and the Brent price, US crude oil exports remain very high. As of 16 July, the WTI crude oil price averaged US$2.82/bbl lower than the Brent crude oil price so far in 2021. During the week ending 9 July 2021, the WTI price averaged US$2.78/bbl lower than the Brent price. US crude oil exports for that same week were 3.51 million bpd, well above the year-to-date 2021 average volume for US crude oil exports. Between 2011 and 2014, the WTI crude price averaged US$10/bbl lower than the Brent crude price.

US crude oil infrastructure has expanded significantly since 2015 to facilitate crude oil exports from onshore production. Ports on the Texas Gulf Coast, particularly Corpus Christi and Houston, have led the expansion, allowing more oil to be exported from the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Basin. Due to the Gulf Coast’s many pipeline connections and efficient port infrastructure, most US crude oil exports leave the US from the Gulf Coast region.

Principal contributors: Jozef Lieskovsky, Richard Yan

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