Monthly U.S. Crude Oil Imports From OPEC Fall to 30-Year Low

(August 2, 2019) — U.S. imports of crude oil from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in March 2019 totaled 1.5 MMbbld, their lowest level since March 1986, based on data in the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Petroleum Supply Monthly report. U.S. crude imports from OPEC members have generally fallen over the previous decade as domestic oil production has increased, EIA comments.

Monthly U.S. Crude Oil Imports From OPEC Falls to 30-Year Low Affects Propane LPG Industry reports BPN Aug 2, 2019From the early 1980s through the late 2000s, OPEC member countries were the source of about half of all U.S. oil imports. In the past 10 years, however, total U.S. imports have fallen and OPEC’s share of those imports has decreased. Non-OPEC countries such as Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia have made up larger shares of U.S. crude imports. In each of the past four years, Canada alone has supplied more oil to the U.S. than all OPEC members combined.

Through the first three months of 2019, U.S. crude oil imports from OPEC members Venezuela and Iraq have fallen the most. In 2018, Venezuela was the source of 505,000 bbld of imports, or 20% of the OPEC total. In March, the U.S. imported just 47,000 bbld from Venezuela. Further, preliminary weekly reports show several weeks in March and May when the U.S. imported no crude from the OPEC founding-member nation.

U.S. sanctions directed at Venezuela’s energy sector, and state-owned PetrÓleos de Venezuela SA specifically, have driven U.S. imports to low levels. Before the U.S. imposed sanctions, imports had been declining as long-term mismanagement of Venezuela’s oil industry, and widespread power outages since the beginning of this year, led to significant declines in the country’s production.

U.S. crude oil imports from other OPEC countries also fell following a November 2016 agreement among cartel members and a number of non-OPEC producers to cut their collective oil output. As a result of the production curtailments, many OPEC members reduced exports to the U.S. in favor of growing markets in Asia. In the first three months of 2019, the volume of respective U.S. oil imports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq—the two largest sources of imports from OPEC in 2018—have averaged 26% and 28% below their year-ago average levels.

In 2018, the U.S. Gulf Coast region, Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PADD) 3, imported 1.4 MMbbld of OPEC crude oil, or 55% of the national total of OPEC imports. With the recent decline, the Gulf Coast imported just 513,000 bbld from the producer group in March 2019. Gulf imports of OPEC crude in March were below those for the West Coast region, marking the first time on record the Gulf Coast was not the predominant import area of OPEC crude oil in the U.S.

For total crude oil imports, the Midwest, PADD 2, has received more crude than the Gulf Coast in every month from November 2018 through March 2019, according to the latest available monthly data. Nearly all of the Midwest’s oil imports come from Canada. EIA comments that the decline in Gulf Coast crude imports and the recent rise in U.S. oil exports from the region has resulted in the Gulf becoming a net exporter in every month from November 2018 through March 2019. More than 90% of the U.S. crude oil exported since the start of 2018 has been shipped from Gulf Coast ports.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, July 29, 2019)