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Energy and Related Products

Author: Cynthia B. Foreso
International Trade Analyst

Change in 2014 from 2013:

  To view changing data, mouseover the graphic below.
  • U.S. total exports: Increased by $8.0 billion (5 percent) to $162.6 billion
  • U.S. general imports: Decreased by $34.2 billion (9 percent) to $350.0 billion

The value of U.S. total exports of energy-related products increased modestly (by 5 percent) from 2013 to 2014 (see table EP.1). Refined petroleum products1 accounted for the largest share—74 percent—of these exports in 2014.

Table EP.1: Energy-related products: U.S. exports and general imports, by selected trading partners, 2010–14
 
Million $
 
           
Absolute change,
Percent change,
Item
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2013-14
2013-14
U.S. exports of domestic exports merchandise:              
Canada 13,221 18,324 18,718 25,084 33,203 8,119 32.4
Mexico 14,523 23,907 24,058 23,455 24,049 594 2.5
Saudi Arabia 70 139 131 182 223 41 22.6
Venezuela 640 751 3,526 2,878 3,067 188 6.5
Colombia 2,328 2,836 3,566 5,402 6,455 1,053 19.5
Russia 187 135 113 93 91 -2 -2.2
Netherlands 5,889 11,230 11,623 11,742 10,299 -1,443 -12.3
Brazil 4,361 6,573 7,494 6,788 7,501 713 10.5
Iraq 3 9 7 13 14 1 9.7
Ecuador 2,037 2,377 2,728 3,504 4,215 712 20.3
All other 42,957 68,838 69,966 74,127 71,559 -2,568 -3.5
Total domestic exports 86,216 135,120 141,929 153,268 160,676 7,408 4.8
Re-exports 893 2,056 1,427 1,307 1,877 569 43.5
Total U.S. exports (domestic exports and re-exports) 87,109 137,176 143,356 154,575 162,553 7,977 5.2
U.S. general imports:              
Canada 84,424 102,740 103,792 110,241 116,232 5,991 5.4
Mexico 33,591 43,899 39,816 34,813 30,269 -4,544 -13.1
Saudi Arabia 30,501 46,241 54,414 50,661 45,930 -4,731 -9.3
Venezuela 31,665 41,963 37,479 30,915 29,059 -1,856 -6
Colombia 10,486 16,846 17,668 15,386 11,960 -3,427 -22.3
Russia 19,564 26,425 22,212 20,475 14,853 -5,622 -27.5
Netherlands 3,924 5,500 5,535 4,100 3,745 -355 -8.7
Brazil 7,928 10,397 9,285 5,761 6,367 606 10.5
Iraq 12,132 16,940 19,259 13,292 13,702 410 3.1
Ecuador 5,655 7,460 7,088 8,844 7,285 -1,559 -17.6
All other 120,269 140,354 111,687 89,664 70,552 -19,111 -21.3
Total general imports 360,138 458,764 428,235 384,153 349,955 -34,198 -8.9
Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2010–14 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2014 (accessed April 21, 2015).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data. The trading partners shown are those with the largest total U.S. trade (U.S. general imports plus U.S. domestic exports) in these products in the current year. Re-exports (also called foreign exports) are further defined in the “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) and in the “Trade Metrics” discussion.

The sectors showing the largest increases in total exports were natural gas and crude petroleum,2 and those showing the largest decreases were coal and petroleum products (see table EP.2).

Table EP.2: Energy-related products: Leading changes in U.S. domestic exports and general imports, 2010-14
 
Million $
 
           
Absolute change,
Percent change,
Item
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2013-14
2013-14
U.S. domestic exports:              
Increases:              
EP004 Crude petroleum 1,337 1,847 2,416 5,023 11,629 6,607 131.5
EP006 Natural gas and components 8,448 10,568 9,243 13,012 17,983 4,971 38.2
EP001 Electrical energy 631 375 233 356 590 234 65.6
Decreases:              
EP003 Coal, coke, and related chemical products 12,609 19,401 17,529 13,770 10,320 -3,450 -25.1
EP005 Petroleum products 61,374 101,003 110,990 120,003 119,136 -867 -0.7
EP002 Nuclear materials 1,816 1,927 1,518 1,104 1,018 -86 -7.8
U.S. general imports:              
Increases:              
EP006 Natural gas and components 20,823 17,291 11,481 13,036 15,409 2,373 18.2
EP001 Electrical energy 2,071 2,015 1,914 2,429 2,626 197 8.1
EP003 Coal, coke, and related chemical products 2,846 3,179 2,285 1,797 1,964 168 9.3
Decreases:              
EP004 Crude petroleum 260,105 336,687 315,820 273,836 246,970 -26,866 -9.8
EP005 Petroleum products 69,267 94,648 92,564 89,209 79,808 -9,401 -10.5
EP002 Nuclear materials 5,025 4,943 4,171 3,846 3,177 -668 -17.4
Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2010–14 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2014 (accessed February 20, 2015).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data.

The value of U.S. general imports of energy-related products decreased significantly during 2013–14, primarily as a result of large declines in crude petroleum and petroleum products imports, while natural gas and coal saw small import gains.

Trade in this sector was impacted by rising U.S. production of crude petroleum, petroleum products, and natural gas. Production of crude petroleum reached levels not seen since the mid-1990s, while refineries operated at or above capacity to process these additional supplies. At the same time, increased output from shale sources bolstered production of natural gas. Coupled with largely stagnant U.S. consumption, the rising U.S. production helped to expand exports and reduce imports.

World prices for the benchmark crudes—West Texas Intermediate and Brent—declined from 2013 to 2014. West Texas Intermediate declined by 5 percent to an average of $93.26 in 2014, while Brent fell by 10 percent to an average of $99.02 in 2014. Both crudes registered steep declines beginning in late December 2014.

U.S. Exports3

In terms of value, the energy-related products for which U.S. domestic exports rose the most in 2014 were crude petroleum (for which exports more than doubled from 2013 to 2014) and natural gas components (for which exports increased by 38 percent). The largest decreases were coal and other carbonaceous materials (down by 25 percent).4 Although petroleum products account for roughly three-quarters of U.S. energy-related products exports, U.S. exports of these goods in 2014 remained largely unchanged from the 2013 level.

Canada, which has historically been the only consistent market for U.S. exports of crude petroleum as part of a commercial exchange agreement between U.S. and Canadian refiners, remained the primary market for U.S. exports of crude petroleum. These exports to Canada accounted for 99 percent of U.S. domestic exports, increasing by 130 percent to $11.5 billion in 2014. In terms of volume, U.S. domestic exports to Canada rose from 48 million barrels in 2013 to 118.2 million barrels in 2014. Large multinational energy companies operate in both countries and exchange crude and petroleum products across the border. An integrated system of shared pipelines crossing the U.S.-Canada border makes it easy and cost-efficient to transport crude petroleum from the wellhead to refineries. Because of the high levels of U.S. crude petroleum production and the fact that U.S. refineries were operating at or above capacity, unusually large volumes of U.S.-produced crude were exported to Canada for refining in 2014.

In terms of quantity, U.S. domestic exports of petroleum products increased by 7 percent to 1.4 billion barrels in 2014, with Mexico, Canada, and the EU being the primary markets. However, because of price and product-mix changes, the value of U.S. exports actually decreased by about 1 percent to $119.1 billion. Most of the increase in the quantity of these exports is attributed to the following factors: (1) reduced U.S. domestic demand for motor fuels, due in part to a lagging economy and more fuel-efficient motor vehicles; (2) increased U.S. production of petroleum products owing to rising supplies of domestic crude, the feedstock for petroleum products; and (3) high world demand for distillate and residual fuel oils.

As noted above, the decline in the value of U.S. exports was due to a combination of factors. First, the product mix being exported was changing: it included higher volumes of less expensive distillate fuel oils rather than finished diesel fuels. The second factor was falling prices on the world market. For example, the unit value of U.S. exports of petroleum products to the EU fell from about $100 per barrel in 2013 to $90–92 per barrel in 2014 because of lower-priced feedstock (crude petroleum).

The value of U.S. domestic exports of natural gas increased by 38 percent ($5 billion) to $18 billion in 2014. Exports declined in quantity, slipping from 1.6 trillion cubic feet in 2013 to 1.5 trillion cubic feet in 2014. However, the unit price of U.S. exports increased, rising by an average of 35 percent to $5.41 per thousand cubic feet for pipeline natural gas and by 30 percent to $15.66 per thousand cubic feet for liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Nearly all of the volume (99 percent) of U.S. natural gas exports is transported via pipeline to Canada and Mexico. An integrated system of pipelines allows easy transport among the countries along the borders. Exports to Canada decreased by 16 percent to 768 billion cubic feet in 2014 as natural gas production in Canada rose strongly, principally from shale sources. U.S. production from shale sources (which contain high levels of propane) also showed strong growth, and U.S. exports of propane to Mexico increased in 2014 by 8 percent to 712 billion cubic feet; propane is the primary fuel Mexicans use for heating, cooking, and other residential purposes.5

U.S. exports of LNG grew sharply, rising from about 7 billion cubic feet in 2013 to 13.6 billion cubic feet in 2014. Japan accounted for about 97 percent of total U.S. LNG exports (which are sourced from Alaska) as part of Japan’s continuing effort to replace its lost nuclear power (due to the 2011 Fukushima accident) with imported LNG and propane. Despite the strong increase, LNG exports to Japan have not reattained the high export levels of 30–35 billion cubic feet seen during 2009–11.

U.S. domestic exports of coal and other carbonaceous materials declined in value by about 25 percent to $10.3 billion in 2014 and by 18 percent in terms of quantity to 97.9 million short tons in 2014. U.S. coal exports have continued to decline from their record volumes in 2012. Most of these exports go to Europe and Asia. U.S. export declines reflect both lower European demand for steam coal (used to generate electricity) and increased steam coal supply on the world market from export-oriented Australia and Indonesia. In addition, China has continued to increase its exports of coal to the world in an ongoing effort to gain market share.6

U.S. Imports

U.S. general imports of energy-related products decreased in value by 9 percent to $350 billion in 2014, primarily as a result of reduced imports of crude petroleum and petroleum products, coupled with declining prices for these goods. Crude petroleum7 continued to be the primary energy product imported in 2014, accounting for 71 percent of the total value of sector imports; petroleum products accounted for 23 percent, and natural gas for 4 percent.

U.S. production of crude petroleum increased by 16 percent in 2014 to 3.2 billion barrels—its highest level since the mid-1990s—while U.S. consumption remained relatively stagnant at 5 billion barrels. As a result, there was declining U.S. demand for imports of crude, which fell by 5 percent to 2.8 billion barrels. At the same time, prices declined from an average of about $96 per barrel in 2013 to about $89 per barrel in 2014, resulting in the value of U.S. imports of crude falling by 10 percent to $247 billion in 2014.

Canada has been the leading U.S. source for imports of crude petroleum for decades and continued to be so in 2014, with import quantities rising by 6 percent to 941 million barrels. U.S.-Canada trade in crude fluctuates year to year, as large multinational petroleum companies operate in both countries and exchange crude and petroleum products. An integrated system of shared pipelines crossing the U.S.-Canada border makes it easy and cost-efficient to transport crude petroleum from the wellhead to refineries.

Imports of crude petroleum from all other major sources declined in 2014, primarily as a result of the increased U.S. production and stagnant domestic consumption. Crude petroleum imports from OPEC fell 15 percent to 1.1 billion barrels in 2014, with Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Kuwait, and Nigeria all showing declines. The drops in imports are also attributable to supply disruptions in both Venezuela and Nigeria. Moreover, the growth in U.S. crude petroleum production from the Bakken and Eagle Ford deposits is of similar quality to Nigeria’s crude and has largely displaced it in the U.S. market. For example, two U.S. East Coast refineries that formerly processed Nigerian crude are now processing nearly 100 percent domestically produced crude petroleum.8

U.S. imports of petroleum products fell from $89.2 billion in 2013 to $78.8 billion in 2014. This decrease was due primarily to increased U.S. production coupled with reduced demand for residual fuel oils, used to generate electricity for large industrial complexes. Many of these industrial consumers have switched to natural gas, as it is a cleaner-burning and less expensive fuel. U.S. refineries, which generally satisfy over 90 percent of domestic consumption, increased their capacity utilization rates in 2014, further reducing demand for imports.

U.S. imports of petroleum products also declined in quantity by 12 percent to 688 million barrels in 2014. U.S. imports from Russia fell by 26 percent to 113 million barrels, as Russia continued closing refineries that only produced distillate and residual fuel oils, along with low-octane gasoline for export. Russia is replacing these refineries with ones that will produce and export higher volumes of middle distillates such as kerosene and diesel, which are higher-value products. U.S. imports from the EU also fell by 4 percent to 171 million barrels in 2014. One major reason for the decline was that certain EU countries continued to consolidate refining operations. Another was that Total’s three French refineries continued to run at reduced capacity because of worker unrest and maintenance issues.9

Although U.S. imports of natural gas declined in quantity by 7 percent to 2.7 trillion cubic feet in 2014, their value increased by 18 percent to $15.4 billion in 2014 because of substantially higher prices for both pipeline natural gas and LNG. The average import price rose from $3.83 per thousand cubic feet in 2013 to $5.49 per thousand cubic feet in 2014.

Imports from Canada, accounting for 98 percent of total U.S. natural gas imports in 2014, declined by about 5 percent to 2.6 trillion cubic feet. This quantity decrease is due to two main factors: a 6 percent increase in U.S. natural gas production, and normal trade fluctuations that occur regularly between the United States and Canada. The fluctuations are based on changes in market supply and demand along the pipelines.

The quantity of U.S. imports of LNG also declined in 2014, falling by 40 percent to 59 million cubic feet, largely because of reduced imports of LNG from Trinidad. The price of LNG from Trinidad was over 60 percent higher (at $9.71 per thousand cubic feet) than that for U.S.-produced natural gas and imports via pipeline from Canada. LNG prices were driven up by higher demand from Japan and other large consuming nations, coupled with the virtual shutdown of natural gas-rich Crimean production because of the conflict in Ukraine.10


1 Refineries produce a variety of products from a barrel of crude petroleum, such as gasoline, diesel and bunker fuels, and heating oils. Ultimately, there is a market for all of these products, whether domestic or foreign. Petroleum products are traded globally, and the United States has a long history of exporting certain petroleum products and importing others to balance refinery output and global demand. Oil and Gas Journal, “Refining Report,” December 1, 2014.
2 U.S. exports of crude petroleum have been prohibited since 1973, except as approved by the U.S. government. Canada has been the only consistent market for these exports, which are part of a commercial exchange agreement between U.S. and Canadian refiners that has been approved by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE). In May 1996, the President determined that allowing exports of Alaskan North Slope (ANS) crude was in the national interest, thus ending the ban on ANS crude exports. The President can impose new export restrictions if severe crude petroleum supply shortages occur.
3 As appropriate, this section will address total exports, domestic exports, and re-exports.
4 Electrical energy showed a sharp increase but also accounts for less than 0.05 percent of these exports. Electricity is shared across the Canadian border, and the transmission grids are interconnected.
5 PEMEX, Annual Report, December 2014.
6 USDOE, EIA, “Country Analysis Brief—China,” February 2014.
7 Certain amounts of crude petroleum imports enter the United States into U.S. foreign-trade zones (FTZs) for storage or refining. Some of these imports are slated for storage in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve or the Naval Petroleum Reserve; some are refined in the FTZ and exported as petroleum products or transferred to other FTZs such as international airports (gasolines and jet fuels).
8 Industry representatives, interviews by USITC staff, January 7, 2015; USDOE, EIA, “Country Analysis Brief—Nigeria,” December 30, 2013.
9 Industry representatives, interviews by USITC staff, January 7, 2015; Oil and Gas Journal, “Western Europe Leads Global Refining Contraction,” December 2, 2013.
10 Morgan Stanley Research, “Crimea Conflict,” May 1, 2014.