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USA Is Still a Net Crude Oil Importer

USA crude oil imports have been emerging, together with its export trade, into a major play for tanker owners, as the country remains a net importer of crude oil. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Banchero Costa said that “driven by the shale oil boom of the last decade, the United States have rapidly increased both the production and the export of crude oil and oil products. Despite the media headlines, the country was still a net importer of crude oil last year. However, based on current trends this is likely to change in 2020. Crude oil imports have been dwindling in recent years, and this is expected to continue also in coming years. Seaborne crude oil exports from the USA reached 129.5 mln tonnes in 2019 (excluding domestic cabotage), based on Refinitiv ship tracking data. This was +48.6% up from the 87.1 mln tonnes of crude oil exported in 2018.

According to Banchero Costa, “at the same time, total seaborne imports of crude oil into the USA (excluding domestic cabotage) amounted to 169.0 mln tonnes. This was -25.7% down from 227.6 mln tonnes in 2018. The effects on the American economy from the Covid-19 pandemic have been significant, and this is also impacting oil demand and therefore imports. In the first 7 months of 2020, the USA imported 82.2 mln tonnes of crude oil by sea, excluding domestic cabotage, according to vessel tracking data from Refinitiv. This represents a net decline of -21.8% y-o-y, compared to the 105.2 mln tonnes imported in the same seven-month period of 2019. The main source of crude oil imports for the USA still remains the Middle East. In the first 7 months of 2020, as much as 29.8% of the USA’s crude imports were shipped from the Arabian Gulf. In this period, volumes from the AG declined by -10.2% y-o-y to 24.5 mln tonnes”, the shipbroker said.

“However, on an individual country levels, things were quite mixed. Shipments from Saudi Arabia to the USA increased by +26.0% y-o-y in Jan-Jul 2020 to 18.3 mln tonnes, from 14.5 mln tonnes in the same period last year. However, this is still much less than the 22.5 mln tonnes in the same period of 2018, and 28.3 mln tonnes in 2017. Saudi Arabia accounts now for 22.3% of the USA’s total imports. On the other hand, imports from Iraq continued in their freefall, declining a further -45.0% y-o-y to 5.5 mln tonnes in Jan-Jul 2020. This is almost three-quarters down from the 18.4 mln tonnes imported in the same period of 2018. Iraq accounts now for 6.6% of the USA’s total crude imports. Shipments from Kuwait to the USA also collapsed by -78.7% y-o-y in Jan-Jul 2020 to 0.6 mln tonnes, from 2.7 mln tonnes in the same period last year. Also in this case this is a continuation of the slide from the 3.1 mln tonnes in the same period of 2018, and 4.8 mln tonnes in 2017. Kuwait accounts for 0.7% of the USA’s total imports. Outside the Middle East, the main source of crude for the USA is Mexico. In the first 7 months of 2020, imports from Mexico increased by +10.9% y-o-y to 21.5 mln tonnes, up from 19.4 mln tonnes in the same period last year. This is also higher than in previous years. Mexico now supplies 26.2% of USA’s imports. Another 16.6 percent of imports were sourced from South America, for a total of 13.7 mln tonnes, down -38.8% y-o-y Half of this was sourced from Colombia, with 7.0 mln tonnes, down -20.5% y-o-y”, Banchero Costa concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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