US crude oil exports reached a record high in February this year and have since recorded monthly falls, according to the country’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Monday.
However, the EIA said US crude oil exports for the first half of 2020 were still higher compared to the same period last year.
Although monthly crude oil imports declined sharply in April before increasing in May and June, the agency said they were still lower in the first half of 2020 compared with the first half of 2019.
Global petroleum demand began to decline rapidly in early 2020 as much of the world initiated measures to limit the spread of coronavirus. The EIA estimated in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook that global petroleum demand fell from 100.7 million barrels per day (b/d) in the first half of 2019 to 90 million b/d in the first half of 2020.
Despite a decline since the record monthly high of 3.7 million b/d in February, US crude oil exports averaged 3.2 million b/d in the first half of 2020, up from 2.9 million b/d in the first half of 2019. The country’s crude oil exports to China drove part of this increase—increasing by 213,000 b/d from the first half of 2019 to 361,000 b/d in the first half of 2020.
The large increase in crude oil exports to China during the first half of 2020 was driven by exports in May and June of 1.3 million b/d and 0.7 million b/d, respectively, surpassing all other destinations to become the largest destination for US crude oil exports.
In the first half of 2020, US crude oil exports to China were the second largest after Canada, averaging 389,000 b/d of crude oil, but down 19% from the same period in 2019.
The Netherlands, South Korea, and the UK were the next largest destinations for US crude oil exports in the first half of 2020. Compared with the first half of 2019, exports to the Netherlands and the UK increased by 11% and 18%, respectively, while exports to South Korea fell by 27%.
- US imports decrease 12% in first half of 2020
US crude oil imports averaged 6.2 million b/d in the first half of 2020, down 12% compared with the first half of 2019, the EIA said.
Monthly imports dropped significantly in April before increasing in May and June. Imports from Saudi Arabia drove the largest monthly increase in US crude oil imports in May, which rose from 0.4 million b/d in April to 1.2 million b/d in both May and June, the agency explained.
This spike in US imports from Saudi Arabia followed a surge in Saudi Arabia’s crude oil production in April, which occurred when an earlier agreement to cut production by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and partner countries (OPEC+) expired and before a new agreement was in place.
Crude oil production in Saudi Arabia rose to its highest level since 1993 to 11.6 million b/d in April. However, the transit time for crude oil tankers from the Persian Gulf to the US takes several weeks, postponing US import records from Saudi Arabia until May and June.
When OPEC+ implemented its most recent production cuts in May, Saudi Arabia’s crude oil production declined and US imports from Saudi Arabia also fell.
US imports from Saudi Arabia fell in July and August to 513,000 b/d and 311,000 b/d, respectively, according to the EIA’s preliminary weekly data.
By Sibel Morrow