The U.S. has marked another milestone: Crude export levels reached a 15-year high. The accomplishment was announced this week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Having surpassed 200,000 bbl/d in five of the past six months, the U.S. reached a new high in April when it exported 268,000 bbl/d, the EIA said in a report. Most of the exports—nearly 75%— departed from the Houston-Galveston area. The region’s exports, which averaged 134,000 bbl/d for first-quarter 2014, have skyrocketed with a 283% increase over last year’s record high of 35,000 bbl/d. Besides the Houston-Galveston area, oil was loaded for export in Port Arthur, Texas, and New Orleans. While exports from the Gulf Coast region dominated, exports from the East Coast dropped slightly compared to last year. EIA figures showed East Coast exports averaged about 30,000 bbl/d in first-quarter 2014, with exports spread evenly among the Port of New York and Portland, Maine. Just about all of the crude oil has gone to Canada. So what’s behind the surge in exports? Rising crude oil production, which has set its own record as output from shale plays—led by the Eagle Ford and Bakken formations—surges. Crude oil production was 8.2 MMbbl/d in March, according to the EIA. An earlier report showed that annual crude oil production has steadily risen. Output averaged 7.5 MMbbl/d in 2013, which was 967,000 bbl/d higher than the 2012 average. Crude export levels could reach greater heights, but a law forbidding crude exports is blocking the way. Exceptions to the law made way for these record-setting exports. “To export crude oil from the United States, a company must obtain a license from the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce,” the EIA explained in the report. Exports, including those from Alaska’s Cook Inlet and those to Canada, are generally approved under export licensing requirements. Also usually getting the green light are exports in connection with the refining or exchange of strategic petroleum reserve oil, exports of foreign-origin crude and California heavy crude up to an average of 25,000 bbl/d, foreign-origin crude exports, and exports that are consistent with international energy supply agreements as well as temporary exports or exchanges, the EIA said. The report came as some continue to push for federal authorities to lift the oil export ban, while others argue against the move. Keeping resources at home could provide some economic security. But the list of benefits to removing the ban sounds enticing. A summary of the possible impacts of U.S. crude oils by ICF International and EnSys Energy states that an expansion of crude exports could result in between $15 billion and $70 billion of additional crude oil E&P investment between 2015 and 2020, GDP could grow by an estimated $38 billion by 2020, and up to 300,000 more jobs could be created. Moreover, lifting the restrictions could narrow the U.S. trade deficit by $22 billion in 2020 due to increased global oil trade. Perhaps of more interest to the typical American is the possibility for a drop in gasoline prices. “The greatest potential annual decline is 3.8 cents per gallon in 2017. These price decreases for gasoline, heating oil and diesel could save American consumers up to $5.8 billion per year, on average, over the 2015 to 2035 period,” the two groups said. Now that has the potential to get more people behind the movement to lift the ban. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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