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Energy-related Products

Diana Friedman
(202) 205-3433
Diana.Friedman@usitc.gov

  To view changing data, hover over or touch the animated graphic below.

Change in 2017 from 2016:

  • U.S. total exports of energy-related products: increased by $44.8 billion (46 percent) to $143.2 billion
  • U.S. general imports of energy-related products: increased by $40.3 billion (26 percent) to $198.1 billion

U.S. exports and imports of energy-related products both grew significantly in value from 2016 to 2017 (table EP.1). The total value of U.S. exports of these products grew by $44.8 billion (46 percent), with refined petroleum products, crude petroleum, and natural gas and components contributing the largest increases. The value of U.S. general imports of energy-related products grew by $40.3 billion (26 percent) over the same period, mostly due to increases in the price of crude petroleum and petroleum products.

Prices for crude petroleum were significantly higher in 2017 than in 2016, reflecting changes in supply and demand for crude petroleum. The average price for West Texas Intermediate (WTI)—a common benchmark for pricing light sweet crude produced in the United States—rose 17 percent from $43.29 per barrel in 2016 to $50.80 in 2017. Brent crude, a more widely used benchmark that is based on the price of a light sweet crude produced in the North Sea, similarly rose, from an average price of $43.64 per barrel in 2016 to $54.12 per barrel in 2017, a 24 percent increase.[1] These price increases explain most of the growth in the value of U.S. imports of crude petroleum and petroleum products, while the growth in export value was also affected by a significant increase in the volume of exports; the volume of U.S. crude petroleum and petroleum product exports increased by 324 million barrels, from 1.43 billion barrels in 2016 to 1.81 billion barrels in 2017 (a 21.9 percent increase).[2]

Table EP.1: Energy-related products: U.S. exports and general imports, by selected trading partners, 2013–17

 
Million $
 
Item
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
Absolute change,
2016–17
Percent
change,
2016–17
U.S. exports of domestic merchandise:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Canada
25,068
33,663
21,945
17,116
19,333
2,217
13.0
    Mexico
23,437
24,631
18,886
19,455
26,442
6,988
35.9
    Saudi Arabia
182
216
179
165
141
-24
-14.3
    Venezuela
2,878
2,975
2,395
1,727
2,003
276
16.0
    Brazil
6,780
7,571
3,908
4,955
8,851
3,896
78.6
    Iraq
13
15
11
10
10
(a)
-1.1
    Colombia
5,378
6,178
4,546
2,996
2,625
-371
-12.4
    China
3,114
2,069
2,508
2,980
8,891
5,911
198.3
    Russia
95
91
51
63
50
-12
-19.6
    Netherlands
11,632
9,840
5,793
5,217
6,305
1,088
20.9
    All other
74,577
72,666
48,140
42,322
66,623
24,300
57.4
        Total domestic exports
153,154
159,915
108,362
97,006
141,275
44,269
45.6
Foreign exports
1,308
1,840
1,863
1,412
1,961
549
38.9
Total U.S. exports (domestic and foreign)
154,463
161,755
110,225
98,418
143,236
44,818
45.5
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Canada
110,230
117,928
70,837
54,755
74,241
19,486
35.6
    Mexico
34,813
30,282
13,674
8,724
11,128
2,405
27.6
    Saudi Arabia
50,661
45,930
20,629
15,718
17,611
1,893
12.0
    Venezuela
30,915
29,059
14,821
10,417
11,690
1,273
12.2
    Brazil
5,761
6,367
4,546
2,779
4,366
1,586
57.1
    Iraq
13,292
13,702
4,340
5,979
10,739
4,759
79.6
    Colombia
15,386
11,964
8,147
7,584
7,700
115
1.5
    China
511
635
538
717
686
-31
-4.3
    Russia
20,475
14,820
9,380
8,301
8,307
6
0.1
    Netherlands
4,100
3,745
1,937
1,828
1,825
-3
-0.2
    All other
97,997
77,193
45,283
41,023
49,803
8,780
21.4
        Total general imports
384,142
351,626
194,132
157,826
198,096
40,270
25.5

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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 countries 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.

      aLess than $500,000.

U.S. Exports[3]

U.S. energy-related exports increased in value from 2016 to 2017 across every product group other than electrical energy, reflecting increases in both the export volumes and prices for most categories of U.S. energy products. U.S. production of crude petroleum, natural gas, and natural gas liquids has been generally increasing since the late 2000s as a result of continued advances in technology for extracting hydrocarbons from low-permeability formations (such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in shale rock). In recent years, this trend of increasing domestic production spurred investments in U.S. energy infrastructure, including additions to natural gas export capacity and petroleum refining capacity. Rising demand from Asia, as well as crude petroleum production cuts and coal supply disruptions in other countries, also supported higher prices for energy-related exports.

U.S. refined petroleum products continue to account for the majority of domestic export value in the energy-related products sector and contributed the largest absolute increase in value from 2016 to 2017. At the same time, U.S. domestic exports of crude petroleum; natural gas and components; and coal, coke, and related products grew at much higher rates from 2016 to 2017 than exports of petroleum products (table EP.2) and are contributing an increasingly large share of export value in this sector.

Table EP.2: Energy-related products: Leading changes in U.S. exports and imports, 2013–17

 
Million $
 
Item
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
Absolute change,
2016–17
Percent
change,
2016–17
U.S. domestic exports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Increases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Petroleum products (EP005)
119,954
118,567
80,142
67,601
84,690
17,089
25.3
        Crude petroleum (EP004)
5,019
11,617
8,232
9,383
21,441
12,057
128.5
        Natural gas and components (EP006)
13,010
17,879
12,001
13,870
23,171
9,301
67.1
        Coal, coke, and related chemical products (EP003)
13,703
10,277
6,945
5,503
11,290
5,787
105.2
    All other
1,467
1,575
1,043
649
683
34
5.2
        Total
153,154
159,915
108,362
97,006
141,275
44,269
45.6
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Increases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Crude petroleum (EP004)
273,836
246,969
126,073
101,841
132,945
31,103
30.5
        Petroleum products (EP005)
89,198
79,764
51,512
41,167
48,430
7,263
17.6
        Natural gas and components (EP006)
13,036
17,070
9,512
7,728
10,197
2,468
31.9
    All other
8,072
7,823
7,034
7,090
6,524
-565
-8.0
        Total
384,142
351,626
194,132
157,826
198,096
40,270
25.5

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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.

Historically, U.S. crude petroleum exports have been limited in volume and accounted for a very small share of energy exports. These exports, however, more than doubled in value from 2016 to 2017, reflecting the effects of recent regulatory changes and shifts in crude prices. In December 2015, President Barack Obama signed legislation repealing restrictions under the Energy and Conservation Policy Act of 1975 that had mostly limited U.S. crude exports to Canada. U.S. crude exports to non-Canadian markets started to increase in 2016, but rose even more in 2017, supported by the fact that the U.S. benchmark crude (WTI) was selling at a larger discount to Brent crude. While both benchmark prices rose, Brent had a higher increase, amplifying the value of each barrel exported while also making U.S. crude more cost competitive in overseas markets.

The WTI-Brent price spread started to widen in 2017, due to rising global demand and a joint agreement between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and 11 non-OPEC crude producers to reduce their crude production.[4] In the second half of 2017, rising U.S. crude production as well as infrastructure constraints between Cushing, Oklahoma (the storage hub where WTI is priced), and U.S. Gulf Coast ports created a regional glut of U.S. crude that supported an even wider WTI discount.[5] Consequently, U.S. crude exports grew from 216 million barrels in 2016 to 408 million barrels in 2017.

The European Union (EU) and China emerged as major markets for U.S. crude petroleum, with the EU receiving more than one-fourth of U.S. crude exports in 2017 and China receiving one-fifth. Canada, however, remained the top export market for U.S. crude petroleum in 2017, even though U.S. crude exports to Canada declined in volume from 2016 by 13 million barrels (10 percent) to 118 million barrels.[6]

U.S. refined petroleum product exports also increased in both price and volume from 2016 to 2017. Average spot prices in the U.S. Gulf Coast (the main location for U.S. petroleum refining and export capacity) rose 20 percent for gasoline and 23 percent for ultra-low-sulfur diesel.[7] A combination of high refinery utilization rates (91 percent) and capacity additions in recent years resulted in record-high levels of petroleum refining in the United States.[8] These record levels were attained despite Hurricane Harvey, which reduced refinery runs in the U.S. Gulf Coast region for nearly two months after its landfall in August 2017.[9] Elevated production of refined petroleum products enabled U.S. exports to increase by 132 million barrels (10 percent) to 1.4 billion barrels in 2017.[10]

Mexico was the largest market for U.S. petroleum products, receiving over half of U.S. gasoline exports and the largest share of U.S. diesel exports (see “Mexico” in part II for more information).[11] In Brazil, state-run refiner Petrobras’ approach to determining domestic diesel prices reportedly allowed foreign suppliers to undercut its prices and gain market share; U.S. exports of ultra-low-sulfur diesel to Brazil increased from $2.1 billion in 2016 to $4.2 billion in 2017.[12]

U.S. exports of natural gas and components also rose significantly in both price and volume from 2016 to 2017. The top U.S. export in this category is liquefied propane, which increased in value by $4.7 billion (63 percent) from 2016 to 2017, rising to $12.1 billion.[13] Propane is primarily used as a fuel for heating or cooking and as a petrochemical feedstock.[14] Most of the increase in export value was due to higher prices, but propane export volumes also rose by 38 million barrels (13 percent) from 2016 to 2017.[15] Since 2010, U.S. propane production has risen and domestic consumption declined, creating a surplus of propane in the United States available for export. Rising demand from East Asia for propane as a petrochemical feedstock supported higher prices, while investments in U.S. propane export capacity facilitated expanded volumes of U.S. propane exports in 2017.[16]

Most U.S. natural gas exports are still sold in a gaseous state via pipeline to Canada and Mexico, but the main source of export growth from 2016 to 2017 was liquefied natural gas (LNG). U.S. natural gas exports via pipeline rose by $923 million (26 percent) to $4.5 billion in 2017, reflecting both increased pipeline export prices and greater export volumes to both Canada and Mexico. At the same time, U.S. LNG exports increased by $2.5 billion (263 percent) to $3.5 billion despite relatively flat LNG prices.[17]

Historically, the United States exported small amounts of LNG to East Asia from a single liquefaction terminal in Kenai, Alaska. However, Cheniere started operating a liquefaction terminal in February 2016 at Sabine Pass in Louisiana, enabling larger LNG export volumes. Cheniere has gradually ramped up the terminal’s export capacity since startup, bringing both its third and fourth liquefaction trains online in 2017.[18] The expansions at Sabine Pass enabled U.S. LNG exports to nearly quadruple, from 184 billion cubic feet in 2016 to 707 billion cubic feet in 2017 (up 284 percent). These exports were also supported by a 1.3 trillion cubic feet increase in annual global LNG trade, with China and South Korea contributing more than half of the additional demand.[19] Top destinations for U.S. LNG exports in 2017 were Mexico, South Korea, China, and Japan.[20]

Although coal has not experienced the same long-term trend of rebounding domestic production as the products described above, U.S. coal exports more than doubled in value from 2016 to 2017. Supply disruptions in Australia and Indonesia (two of the top exporters of coal) increased global coal prices and enabled U.S. exports to gain market share.[21] Metallurgical coal—a higher-value coal of the quality needed for use in steelmaking—accounts for the majority of U.S. exports in this product group and contributed most of the growth. U.S. exports of metallurgical coal rose from $3.4 billion in 2016 to $7.4 billion in 2017, a 117 percent increase.[22] This growth was driven by increases in both export quantity and metallurgical coal prices, which rose by $50.07 per short ton (59 percent) to $134.55 in 2017.[23]

The growth in exports of this product was geographically widespread. U.S. metallurgical coal exports to Ukraine experienced the largest increase from 2016 to 2017, climbing by $447 million (218 percent) to $652 million.[24] In March 2017, Kiev formally suspended trade with the separatist-controlled eastern region of the country—where the vast majority of Ukraine’s coal production is located—after rising tensions over coal shipments.[25] One of the producers of metallurgical coal in the United States is owned by a Ukrainian steel company, and in 2017 this producer started exporting most of its coal output to Ukraine.[26] Brazil remains the top market for U.S. metallurgical coal, but exports to steelmakers in Japan, India, South Korea, and China also grew significantly due to the supply disruptions in Australia and Indonesia.[27]

While metallurgical coal was the highest-value export, steam coal (coal typically used in power generation) contributed a larger increase to the quantity of U.S. coal exports. U.S. steam coal exports more than doubled, from 19 million short tons in 2016 to 42 million short tons in 2017.[28] India was the top market for increased U.S. steam coal exports; although India has significant domestic coal production, many of its new coal-fired power generation plants need to use coal of a higher quality and energy content than the domestic product.[29]

U.S. Imports

U.S. general imports of energy-related products increased in value from 2016 to 2017 for crude petroleum, petroleum products, and natural gas and components, reflecting the increases in prices described above as well as an increased volume of energy product trade with Canada.[30] U.S. crude petroleum continues to account for the majority of imports (by value) for this sector and contributed the largest shift in import value from 2016 to 2017. U.S. refineries’ average acquisition cost for crude imports increased by $10.37 per barrel (27 percent) to $49.12 per barrel in 2017.[31] The volume of crude imports also rose slightly from 2016 to 2017, increasing by 15 million barrels (1 percent) due to increased demand from U.S. petroleum refineries. Most of this additional crude was used to produce more petroleum product exports; finished petroleum product exports rose by 127 million barrels in 2017, while U.S. consumption rose 33 million barrels.[32]

U.S. crude imports sourced from OPEC members declined by 28 million barrels (2 percent), reflecting OPEC’s overall compliance with the 2017 production cuts. Compliance levels and the impact on U.S. crude imports varied by OPEC member, however; U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela decreased from 2016 to 2017, while imports from Iraq and Nigeria increased significantly.[33] The overall decline in U.S. crude imports from OPEC members was more than offset by a 67 million barrel (6 percent) increase in imports from Canada.[34]

Canada continues to be the main source of U.S. imports of energy-related products due to closely integrated cross-border energy markets and supply chains. Of the $40.3 billion increase in U.S. imports of energy-related products, $19.5 billion came from a rise in the value of imports from Canada (table EP.2). The high level of bilateral energy trade with Canada is facilitated by extensive cross-border pipeline and transmission infrastructure, as well as the complementary nature of crude petroleum produced in Alberta’s oil sands and the configurations of refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.

 

[1] The average price is calculated using an unweighted average of daily spot prices. EIA, “Spot Prices” (accessed March 20, 2018).

[2] Calculated by subtracting U.S. exports of hydrocarbon gas liquids from EIA’s total for all U.S. exports of crude oil and petroleum products. The HTS classifies hydrocarbon gas liquids as a component of natural gas or group of chemicals (for olefins) rather than as petroleum products. EIA, “Exports” (accessed August 22, 2018).

[3] As appropriate, this section will address total exports, domestic exports, and re-exports.

[4] In December 2016, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) reached an agreement with a group of non-OPEC crude-producing countries to collectively reduce their crude petroleum output by a total of nearly 1.8 million barrels per day (about 2 percent of global supply), starting in 2017. Soldatkin, El Gamal, and Lawler, “OPEC, Non-OPEC Agree First Global Oil Pact since 2001,” December 10, 2016; Gilchrist, “Global Oil Demand to Exceed Expectations,” September 13, 2017.

[5] EIA, “Transportation Constraints and Export Costs,” November 15, 2017.

[6] EIA, “Exports by Destination” (accessed March 20, 2018).

[7] Average spot prices are calculated using an unweighted average of daily spot prices. EIA, “Spot Prices” (accessed March 20, 2018).

[8] EIA, “U.S. Petroleum Product Exports Continued to Grow in 2017,” March 21, 2018.

[9] Hurricane Harvey made landfall in late August 2017 in Texas, which contains 31 percent of all U.S. refinery capacity. EIA, “Gulf Coast Refinery Runs,” October 26, 2017.

[10] Production levels are calculated by subtracting U.S. exports of crude oil and hydrocarbon gas liquids from EIA's total for all U.S. exports of crude oil and petroleum products. The HTS classifies hydrocarbon gas liquids as a component of natural gas or group of chemicals (for olefins) rather than as petroleum products. EIA, “Exports” (accessed March 22, 2018).

[11] EIA, “U.S. Petroleum Product Exports Continued to Grow,” March 21, 2018.

[12] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (Schedule B number 2710.19.1106; accessed April 30, 2018); Nogueira and Alper, “Brazil’s Petrobras to Review Diesel, Gasoline Prices,” June 30, 2017.

[13] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (Schedule B number 2711.12; accessed February 8, 2018).

[14] Petrochemical plants can use propane to produce propylene and ethylene, which are basic building blocks for manufacturing plastics. EIA, “Lower Petrochemical Use of Propane,” October 9, 2014.

[15] Propane prices are calculated using an unweighted average of daily spot prices. EIA, “Spot Prices” (accessed March 20, 2018); EIA, “Exports” (accessed March 22, 2018).

[16] EIA, “U.S. Propane Prices and Crude Oil Prices Re-link,” February 28, 2018.

[17] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (Schedule B numbers 2711.11 and 2711.21, accessed February 8, 2018); EIA, “U.S. Natural Gas Exports and Re-Exports by Country” (accessed May 3, 2018).

[18] EIA, “U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas Exports Have Increased,” December 7, 2017.

[19] EIA, “Natural Gas Weekly Update,” May 2, 2018.

[20] EIA, “U.S. Natural Gas Exports and Re-Exports by Country” (accessed May 3, 2018).

[21] EIA, “U.S. Coal Exports Increased by 61% in 2017,” April 19, 2018.

[22] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (Schedule B number 2701.12.0010; accessed April 30, 2018).

[23] EIA, “Average Price of U.S. Metallurgical Coal Exports,” April 2, 2018.

[24] This trade was all classified as metallurgical coal, but as much as 638,000 short tons (15 percent) appears to actually consist of U.S. anthracite-grade coal exported to Ukraine for use in power generation. Ukrainian power plants had previously relied on high-quality anthracite coal sourced from the blockaded part of the country to generate electricity, but started receiving U.S. coal shipments in September 2017. Olearchyk, “Trump-Poroshenko Brokered Deal Brings First U.S. Energy Coal,” September 13, 2017; USITC DataWeb/USDOC (Schedule B numbers 2701.11.0000, 2701.12.0010, and 2701.12.0050; accessed May 9, 2018).

[25] Olearchyk, “Ukraine Imposes Cargo Blockade,” March 15, 2017; Ignatov, “Ukrainian Coal,” September 10, 2015.

[26] Interfax Ukraine, “Metinvest Prepared to Replace Russian Raw Materials,” April 13, 2017.

[27] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (Schedule B number 2701.12.0010; accessed April 30, 2018).

[28] EIA, “U.S. Steam Coal Exports,” April 2, 2018.

[29] EIA, “U.S. Coal Exports Increased by 61% in 2017,” April 19, 2018.

[30] EIA, “U.S. Imports by Country of Origin” (accessed May 3, 2018); EIA, “U.S. Natural Gas Imports by Country” (accessed May 3, 2018).

[31] EIA, “Refiner Acquisition Cost of Crude Oil” (accessed July 7, 2018).

[32] EIA, “Exports” (accessed May 11, 2018); EIA, “Product Supplied” (accessed May 11, 2018).

[33] Saudi Arabia and Venezuela each reduced their crude production to significantly below their target under the agreed production cuts, while Nigeria was exempt from the agreement and Iraq cut its crude production by only 44 million barrels (57 percent of its targeted reduction). U.S. crude imports from Saudi Arabia fell 58 million barrels (14 percent) and imports from Venezuela fell 46 million barrels (17 percent). U.S. crude imports from Iraq and Nigeria rose 66 million barrels (43 percent) and 37 million barrels (49 percent), respectively. Denning, “OPEC’s Year-One Report Card,” January 30, 2018; EIA, “U.S. Imports by Country of Origin” (accessed May 31, 2018).

[34] EIA, “U.S. Imports by Country of Origin” (accessed May 3, 2018).

 

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