Energy and Related Products

Author: Cynthia B. Foreso
International Trade Analyst

Change in 2015 from 2014:

  To view changing data, mouseover the graphic below.
  • U.S. total exports: Decreased by $49.2 billion (31 percent) to $111.7 billion
  • U.S. general imports: Decreased by $157.2 billion (45 percent) to $194.5 billion

The value of both exports and imports of energy-related products experienced significant declines in 2015 (table EP.1). The value of U.S. total exports decreased by 31 percent with the largest decreases being in refined petroleum products1, natural gas, and crude petroleum2 (table EP.2). The value of U.S. general imports of energy-related products showed a 45 percent decline, with the largest import decreases in crude petroleum and refined petroleum products.

Table EP.1: Energy-related products: U.S. exports and general imports, by selected trading partners, 2011–15

 
Million $
 
Item 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Absolute change, 
2014–15
Percent
change, 
2014–15
U.S. exports of domestic merchandise:              
    Canada 18,324 18,718 25,068 33,267 21,793 -11,474 -34.5
    Mexico 23,907 24,057 23,457 24,029 19,011 -5,018 -20.9
    Saudi Arabia 139 131 182 215 180 -36 -16.6
    Venezuela 751 3,526 2,878 2,930 2,348 -581 -19.8
    Colombia 2,836 3,566 5,377 6,221 4,730 -1,492 -24.0
    Russia 135 113 93 91 51 -41 -44.4
    Brazil 6,573 7,494 6,773 7,571 3,934 -3,638 -48.0
    Netherlands 11,230 11,623 11,610 9,840 6,292 -3,548 -36.1
    Ecuador 2,377 2,728 3,504 4,004 2,881 -1,122 -28.0
    United Kingdom 2,166 2,747 2,473 2,603 2,508 -95 -3.6
    All other 66,680 67,248 71,696 68,343 46,192 -22,151 -32.4
        Total domestic exports 135,120 141,952 153,111 159,115 109,920 -49,196 -30.9
Foreign exports 2,056 1,427 1,312 1,802 1,827 25 1.4
Total U.S. exports (domestic and foreign) 137,176 143,379 154,423 160,917 111,746 -49,171 -30.6
U.S. general imports:              
    Canada 102,740 103,792 110,230 117,932 71,185 -46,748 -39.6
    Mexico 43,899 39,816 34,813 30,282 13,687 -16,596 -54.8
    Saudi Arabia 46,241 54,414 50,661 45,930 20,629 -25,301 -55.1
    Venezuela 41,963 37,479 30,915 29,059 14,821 -14,238 -49.0
    Colombia 16,846 17,668 15,386 11,964 8,151 -3,813 -31.9
    Russia 26,425 22,212 20,475 14,820 9,380 -5,439 -36.7
    Brazil 10,397 9,285 5,761 6,367 4,539 -1,827 -28.7
    Netherlands 5,500 5,535 4,100 3,745 1,937 -1,807 -48.3
    Ecuador 7,460 7,088 8,844 7,285 4,306 -2,979 -40.9
    United Kingdom 8,558 8,901 7,998 6,286 3,994 -2,292 -36.5
    All other 148,737 122,045 94,958 77,958 41,845 -36,113 -46.3
        Total general imports 458,764 428,235 384,142 351,628 194,475 -157,153 -44.7
 

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2011–15 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2015 (accessed February 10, 2016).
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).

Table EP.2: Energy-related products: Leading changes in U.S. exports and imports, 2011–15

 
Million $
 
Item 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Absolute change, 
2014–15
Percent
change, 
2014–15
U.S. domestic exports:              
    Decreases:              
        Petroleum products (EP005) 101,003 110,990 119,923 117,542 81,700 -35,842 -30.5
        Crude petroleum (EP004) 1,847 2,415 5,019 11,738 8,183 -3,555 -30.3
        Coal, coke, and related chemical products (EP003) 19,401 17,551 13,703 10,293 6,984 -3,309 -32.1
        Electrical energy (EP001) 375 233 356 564 247 -317 -56.3
        Nuclear materials (EP002) 1,927 1,518 1,104 1,011 802 -209 -20.7
    All other 10,568 9,244 13,004 17,967 12,004 -5,964 -33.2
        Total 135,120 141,952 153,111 159,115 109,920 -49,196 -30.9
U.S. general imports:              
    Decreases:              
        Crude petroleum (EP004) 336,687 315,820 273,836 246,969 126,065 -120,903 -49.0
        Petroleum products (EP005) 94,648 92,564 89,198 79,771 51,502 -28,268 -35.4
        Nuclear materials (EP002) 4,943 4,171 3,846 3,177 2,826 -351 -11.0
        Electrical energy (EP001) 2,015 1,914 2,429 2,670 2,399 -271 -10.1
        Coal, coke, and related chemical products (EP003) 3,179 2,285 1,797 1,972 1,750 -222 -11.3
    All other 17,291 11,481 13,036 17,070 9,932 -7,138 -41.8
        Total 458,764 428,235 384,142 351,628 194,475 -157,153 -44.7
 

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2011–15 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2015 (accessed February 10, 2016).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations are based on unrounded data.

The decline in the value of U.S. trade in these products is the result of declining prices. World prices for the benchmark crudes—West Texas Intermediate and Brent—declined significantly from an average of $88.39 per barrel in 2014 to an average of $44.39 per barrel in 2015. The average price (which is a weighted average of contract and spot prices) for both crude types dropped by 49 to 50 percent.3 The average U.S. refiner acquisition costs for crude petroleum (an indicator of the cost of refined petroleum products) declined from $92.02 per barrel in 2014 to $48.40 per barrel in 2015; world natural gas prices declined from $5.80 per thousand cubic feet to $4.32 in 2015; and world coal prices declined from $87 per short ton in 2014 to about $72 in 2015.4  U.S. trade in this sector was also impacted by a slowdown in the rate by which U.S. production of crude petroleum and natural gas increased compared with 2014.

U.S. Exports5

Canada 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. In 2015 Canada remained the primary market for U.S. exports of crude petroleum, accounting for 97 percent of both the quantity and value of all U.S. domestic exports.6 In terms of quantity, U.S. exports of crude to Canada increased from 120.9 million barrels in 2014 to 154.2 million barrels in 2015.7 At the same time, because of the drop in world prices for crude petroleum, the value of U.S. exports of crude declined by 43 percent to $45.2 billion in 2015.8

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. With U.S. production of crude petroleum increasing slightly (about 6 percent) to 3.4 billion barrels in 2015 and U.S. refineries operating at over 90 percent capacity, excess U.S.-produced crude continued to be exported to Canada for refining.9

In terms of quantity, U.S. domestic exports of petroleum products increased by 12 percent to 1.6 billion barrels in 2015.10 However, due to the sharp drop in prices that refiners pay for crude petroleum, the value of U.S. exports actually decreased by about 31 percent to $87.7 billion in 2015, with Mexico, Canada, and the EU, the primary U.S. markets, showing the most significant declines.11 Most of the increase in the quantity of U.S. exports of petroleum products is attributed to reduced U.S. domestic demand for motor fuels, due in part to more fuel-efficient cars, and high demand for distillate and residual fuel oils on the world market.12

The value of U.S. exports of natural gas also declined by 33 percent ($6 billion) to $12 billion in 2015, but these exports increased in quantity from 1.5 trillion cubic feet in 2014 to 1.8 trillion cubic feet in 2015.13 The price of U.S. exports of pipeline natural gas, which goes to Canada and Mexico, decreased by 45 percent to $2.95 per thousand cubic feet in 2015, while that of liquefied natural gas (LNG) fell by 30 percent to $10.92 per thousand cubic feet.14

Nearly all of the volume (99 percent) of U.S. natural gas exports is transported via pipeline, with Mexico accounting for 60 percent and Canada, 40 percent.15 An integrated system of pipelines allows for easy transport among the countries along the borders. Exports to Canada decreased by 9 percent to 768 billion cubic feet in 2015 as natural gas production in Canada rose strongly, principally from shale sources.16 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 2015 by 45 percent to 1.1 trillion cubic feet.17 Propane is Mexico's primary fuel used for heating, cooking, and other residential uses; as more of Mexico's propane output goes to produce resins at a new, world-scale polyolefins plant, Mexico has had to import larger quantities of propane for residential use.18

U.S. exports of LNG increased from about 16.2 billion cubic feet in 2014 to 28.4 billion cubic feet in 2015.19 Japan and Taiwan each accounted for about 50 percent of total U.S. LNG exports, which are sourced from Alaska. While Japan is a traditional market for U.S. LNG exports, 2015 is the first year that U.S. exports went to Taiwan. Taiwan recently began a program to reduce its use of coal for electricity generation and has started switching over to LNG as a substitute. Now that its LNG import terminals are functional, Taiwan's imports of LNG have skyrocketed, with the United States, Indonesia, and Malaysia being its major suppliers.20

The value of U.S. exports of coal and other carbonaceous materials declined in value by about 32 percent to $7 billion in 2015, and declined in quantity by 24 percent to 74 million short tons.21 U.S. coal exports have continued to fall from their record volumes in 2012. Most U.S. coal exports are imported by Europe and Asia. U.S. export declines reflect both lower European demand for steam coal (used for electricity generation) and increased steam coal supply on the world market from export-oriented Australia and Indonesia. In addition, U.S. exports to South Korea dropped significantly beginning in mid- to late 2014, as South Korea’s tax on coal imports went into effect.22 The country’s importers must now pay the tax based on the caloric content of the imported coal—the lower the caloric content, the higher the tax. The tax is expected to depress South Korean demand for thermal coals.

U.S. Imports

U.S. general imports of energy-related products decreased in value by 45 percent to $194.5 billion in 2015, as prices for these products dropped sharply. Crude petroleum23 continued to be the primary energy product imported in 2015, accounting for 65 percent of the total value of sector imports, refined petroleum products accounted for 27 percent, and natural gas for 5 percent.

In 2015, the downward trend in U.S. imports of crude petroleum, which began in 2010, ended as crude petroleum imports increased very slightly from 2.681 million barrels in 2014 to 2.683 million barrels in 2015.24 However, the value of imports declined by 49 percent to $126.1 billion. The rate of growth of U.S. production of crude petroleum slowed in 2015 as substantially lower crude prices led to less exploration. U.S. rig counts have fallen over 70 percent since October 2014 and are expected to continue to decrease.25 In addition, U.S. stocks (inventories) of crude petroleum and refined petroleum products reached historic high levels in 2015 because of low prices and were supplied in part by imports. Additions to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve also increased, having reached the highest levels in history with timed releases resulting in more crude available to refiners at low prices.26

Canada has been the leading U.S. source for imports of crude petroleum for decades and continued to be so in 2015, accounting for 43 percent of total U.S. crude imports in terms of quantity.27 U.S. imports from Canada increased by 10 percent in quantity to 1.2 billion barrels in 2015.28 An integrated system of shared pipelines crossing the U.S.-Canada border facilitates an efficient transportation of crude petroleum from the wellhead to refineries. Also, large multinational petroleum companies operate in both countries and exchange crude and refined petroleum products.

Imports of crude petroleum from most other major sources declined in 2015. In particular, U.S. imports from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) fell 12 percent to just under 1.0 billion barrels in 2015. U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Nigeria all showed declines while those from Venezuela showed an increase of 6 percent.29 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 as two U.S. East Coast refineries that formerly processed Nigerian crude are now processing nearly 100 percent domestically produced crude petroleum. The increase of imports from Venezuela is attributed to its cancellation of the scheduled auction of Citgo (a wholly Venezuelan owned refiner operating in the United States) in late 2014, which would have freed up Venezuelan crude for export to China. As a result of the cancellation, Citgo's U.S. refineries continue to import Venezuelan heavy Orinoco crude, which they were built to process.30

The value of U.S. imports of petroleum products dropped 35 percent, from $79.8 billion in 2014 to $51.5 billion in 2015, but the quantity actually increased 8 percent to 748 million barrels.31 The rise in import quantity is attributable to increased supplies from Canada, which were imported to replace U.S. production lost because of a nearly two-month-long workers’ strike at 12 U.S. refineries that began in February 2015.32 Nearly all of the striking refineries were owned wholly or as a majority joint venture by Royal Dutch Shell, including the largest U.S. refinery—the Motiva Refinery in Port Arthur, TX, that produces 600,250 barrels per day of refined petroleum products. In addition, the large ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, CA, was shut down on February 18, 2015, after an explosion caused extensive damage to the facility; the plant was partially reopened on May 9, 2016.33

Although the value of U.S. imports of natural gas declined by 42 percent to $9.9 billion in 2015, in this case, too, the quantity increased slightly (by 1 percent) to 2.7 trillion cubic feet.34 The average import price for pipeline natural gas declined from $5.30 per thousand cubic feet in 2014 to $2.99 per thousand cubic feet in 2015.35 The average price for LNG also declined, but to a lesser degree, from $8.85 per thousand cubic feet in 2014 to $7.37 per thousand cubic feet in 2015.36

Imports from Canada, accounting for 97 percent of total U.S. natural gas imports in 2015 (in terms of quantity), generally fluctuate based on changes in market supply and demand along the pipelines that run between the two countries.37 As a result of cold weather during the 2015 winter, demand for propane (used as a heating fuel in the Northeastern United States) drove the slight increase in imports from Canada.

The quantity of U.S. imports of LNG rose in 2015 by 52 percent to 90 million cubic feet, due to increased imports of LNG from Trinidad and Tobago; however, LNG accounts for only about 2 percent of total U.S. natural gas imports.38 Trinidad and Tobago has been facing declining demand for its LNG by Japan due to past supply disruptions, which resulted in Japan increasing LNG imports from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the United States. U.S. imports from Trinidad in 2015 were one-half of the levels imported before 2013. 

 

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.
2 U.S. exports of crude petroleum had historically 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 crude was in the national interest, thus ending the ban on those exports.On December 18, 2015, the President signed into law legislation that would allow for U.S. exports of crude petroleum, which would begin on December 31, 2015. Export licenses for crude petroleum will continue to be required and administered by the USDOE. The President will, however, keep the authority to impose new export restrictions for a period not to exceed one year under certain circumstances. Examples include severe crude shortages in the United States or if supply shortages or price increases occur and are likely to cause sustained adverse effects on U.S. employment. 3 Author’s calculations. All prices reported in this section are average prices paid for the products, not unit values of exports or imports. All quantity data for these energy-related products were derived from official statistics of the USDOE and industry sources.
4 USDOE, “Refiner Acquisition Cost of Crude Oil,” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_pri_rac2_dcu_nus_a.htm (accessed July 6, 2016); industry sources (password-protected databases).
5 As appropriate, this section will address total exports, domestic exports, and re-exports.
6 USDOE, “Exports by Destination,” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_expc_a_EPC0_EEX_mbbl_a.htm (accessed by July 6, 2016).
7 Ibid.
8 Author’s calculations derived from industry sources.
9 USDOE, “Crude Oil Production,” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_crd_crpdn_adc_mbbl_a.htm (accessed July 6, 2016); U.S Department of Energy, “Refinery Utilization and Capacity,” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_pnp_unc_dcu_nus_a.htm (accessed July 6, 2016).
10 USDOE, “Exports by Destination,” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_expc_a_EPP0_EEX_mbbl_a.htm (accessed July 6, 2016).
11 Author’s calculations using transactional pricing data from industry sources.
12 USITC staff telephone interview with industry official, April 21, 2016.
13 USDOE, “U.S. Natural Gas Exports by Country,” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_move_expc_s1_a.htm (accessed July 6, 2016).
14 USDOE, “Natural Gas Prices,” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_pri_sum_dcu_nus_a.htm (accessed July 6, 2016).
15 USDOE, “U.S. Natural Gas Exports by Country,” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_move_expc_s1_a.htm (accessed July 6, 2016).
16 Statistics Canada (accessed July 7, 2016), Energy, 2016.
17 PEMEX, Annual Report, December 2015.
18 Ibid.
19 USDOE, “U.S. Natural Gas Exports by Point of Exit,” http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_move_poe2_a_EPG0_ENG_Mmcf_a.htm (accessed July 6, 2016).
20 Platt's Global, “Taiwan Ramps Up LNG Imports,” November 17, 2015.
21 USDOE, “Exports by Country of Destination,” https://www.eia.gov/coal/data.cfm#imports (accessed July 6, 2016).
22 The tax structure has resulted in South Korean importers buying coal that is close to or over the 5,000 kilocalorie per kilogram (kcal/kg) limit for the bottom tier of the tax. Most U.S. coal exports to South Korea are from the south end of the Powder River Basin (Montana and Wyoming) and are less than 4,500 kcal/kg at an average cost of about $14 per metric ton at the mine mouth (not including transportation costs to the West Coast ports). The South Korean tax structure puts this coal at a disadvantage of about $2 per metric ton compared with coals with higher caloric content from other suppliers, reducing U.S. coal exports to South Korea. USDOE, “South Korea Country Analysis Brief,” October 2015.
23 Certain amounts of crude petroleum imports enter into U.S. Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs) for storage or refining. Some of these imports are slated for storage in the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve or the Naval Petroleum Reserve; others are refined in the FTZ and exported as petroleum products; still others (gasolines and jet fuels) are transferred to other FTZs, such as those at international airports.
24 USDOE, “U.S. Imports by Country of Origin,” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_impcus_a2_nus_epc0_im0_mbbl_a.htm (accessed July 6, 2016).
25 Derived from official statistics of USDOE.
26 Data derived from official statistics of USDOE. Producers use crude stockpiles to smooth out the impact of changes in supply and demand. Inventory levels are impacted by worldwide events such as production changes, political events, tax policy changes, and other factors that affect the price of crude. The higher the inventory levels, the lower the price of the crude. A major storage center for U.S. stockpiles is located in Cushing, OK. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve has stockpiles in Cushing as well as other locations around the world for use during an energy crisis.
27 USDOE, “U.S. Imports by Country of Origin,” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_impcus_a2_nus_epc0_im0_mbbl_a.htm (accessed July 6, 2016).
28 Ibid.
29 Ibid.
30 Industry experts, telephone interview by USITC staff, May 5, 2016.
31 USDOE, “U.S. Imports by Country of Origin,” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_impcus_a2_nus_EPP0_im0_mbbl_a.htm (accessed July 6, 2016).
32 Oil and Gas Journal, “Refining Report,” April 15, 2015.
33 Oil and Gas Journal, “Refining Report,” April 4, 2016.
34 USDOE, “U.S. Natural Gas Imports by Country,” http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_move_impc_s1_a.htm (accessed July 6, 2016).
35 USDOE, “Natural Gas Prices,” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_pri_sum_dcu_nus_a.htm (accessed July 6, 2016).
36 Ibid.
37 USDOE, “U.S. Natural Gas Imports by Country,” http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_move_impc_s1_a.htm (accessed July 6, 2016).
38 Ibid.