US crude oil imports and exports update April 2018 data

Contrary to common assumptions that the US is on the cusp of energy independence US crude oil imports averaged 7.8 mb/d in the last 12 months. 3.5 mb/d came from neighboring Canada, a special case due to an integrated oil supply infrastructure. The other 4.3 mb/d have a number of geopolitical risks attached.

US_crude_imports_by_country_1973-Apr2018Fig 1: US crude oil imports by country

Crude imports peaked – you guessed it – in 2005 although 2004-2007 can be considered as a peak period with imports slightly above 10 mb/d. There are several reasons for the peak which is explained in the following graphs.

US_crude_imports_Latin-America_1973-Apr2018Fig 2: US crude imports from Latin America

Crude production in Mexico has peaked and Venezuela is in long term decline.

Mexico_Venezuela_crude_Mar2018Fig 3: Mexico and Venezuela crude production

Both Mexico and Venezuela have clearly peaked and are in steep declines. The new Mexican President Obrador promises an oil sector clean-up and Venezuelan President warns of a US invasion

Maduro_prepares_invasion_USFig 4: Maduro Responds To Reports That Trump Wanted To Invade Venezuela

Colombia_Ecuador_crude_Mar2018Fig 5: Crude production in Colombia and Ecuador

Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Venezuela have heavy sour crude for which US Gulf coast refineries were designed.

US_crude_imports_Africa_1973-Apr2018Fig 6: US crude imports from Africa

US shale oil replaced imports of similarly light oil, especially Bonny Light from Nigeria.

US_crude_imports_Persian_Gulf_1973-Apr2018Fig 7: US crude imports from the Persian Gulf

US crude imports from the Persian Gulf were an average of 1.6 mb/d in the last 12 months as they have trended downwards since 2001 at around 5% pa.

US_crude_imports_Canada_1973-Apr2018Fig 8: US crude imports from Canada and other countries

Oil production has peaked in the North Sea so it’s no surprise that US imports from there have petered out.

US crude oil exports

US_crude_exports_2015-Apr2018Fig 9: US crude oil exports by destination country

The US had a crude oil export ban in place but Canada was exempted due to the integrated oil supply system. The export ban was lifted in January 2016 because US refiners could not absorb increasing quantities of tight oil (one reason why oil prices dropped)

US_crude_exports_OGJ_estimate_Dec2014Fig 10: Graph from a Dec 2014 OGJ article

Note the increasing Canadian crude re-exports and the high percentage of condensate in the export mix.

US_crude_exports_by_size_2015-Apr2018Graph 11: Distribution of export size

In many countries extra light US shale oil is being used as a blending component, but not as bulk feedstock. Important volumes of US crude oil exports (which would matter on global oil markets) go only to a few countries. The right hand side on the above graph shows the cumulative exports, 77% of which go to just 10 countries.

After Canada  the biggest importer of US crude is China. But there are already signs that the evolving trade war has already spread to oil:
Chinese Refiner Stops U.S. Oil Imports, Turns To Iranian Crude
An independent Chinese refiner has suspended crude oil purchases from the United States and has now turned to Iran as one of its sources of crude, media reports citing an official from the refiner, Dongming Petrochemical Group.


No matter what clever US energy independence calculations are out there, the fact remains that the US is physically dependent on around 8 mb/d of crude oil imports, 4.3 mb/d out of which come from countries where oil production has already peaked and/or where there are socio- economic or geopolitical problems.  As of April 2018 US net crude imports were about 6 mb/d, far from oil independence.

Previous posts:

US oil dependency on Middle East has hardly changed since 2007

US will always remain crude oil importer