The U.S. Gulf Coast exported more crude oil than it imported in the last two months of 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The difference between gross exports and gross imports fell from a high in early 2007 of 6.6 million barrels per day of net imports to 0.4 million barrels per day of net exports in December 2018. Gross exports rose to a record level of 2.3 million barrels per day in the Gulf Coast, as gross imports in December were less than 2 million barrels per day, the lowest level since March 1986.
The Gulf Coast region, which includes states, such as Arkansas, Texas and Mississippi, became a net crude oil exporter in the last two months of 2018. Crude oil production in the region has risen in recent years, and in November 2018, production reached a record level of 7.7 million barrels per day. Production increased for light, sweet crude oils, but U.S. Gulf Coast refineries are configured mostly to process heavy, sour crude oils. This mismatch in production and processing capabilities allows for more of the rising levels of production to be exported.
U.S. gross crude oil exports rose to record levels in late 2018. More than 90% of U.S. crude oil exports leave from the U.S. Gulf Coast, and crude oil exports from the region reached a record level of 2.3 million barrels per day in December. In the last three months of 2018, the region exported more than 2 million barrels per day.
U.S. total and Gulf Coast region crude oil imports have fallen from their highest point in the mid-2000s. Then, the Gulf Coast accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total U.S. imports. Gulf Coast crude oil imports have fallen as other regions, such as the Midwest and West Coast, have increased their imports of crude oil. The Gulf Coast’s share of total imports was 32% in 2018.
Gulf Coast gross crude oil imports fell to record lows in the final months of 2018, with imports of 1.9 million barrels per day in December, down from 3.7 million barrels per day at the same time five years ago. Gulf Coast crude oil imports from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries declined from 1.5 million barrels per day in the first half of 2018 to 1.1 million barrels per day in December after falling sharply in the final two months of 2018.
The Gulf Coast is the first region to export more crude oil than it imports since the West Coast had a small amount of net exports in the early 1990s. The Midwest has the highest net imports of crude oil of any region, averaging 2.6 million barrels per day in 2018.
The United States is expected to start exporting more petroleum and other liquids than it imports in 2020, according to the EIA. This not only includes crude oil but also petroleum products and hydrocarbon gas liquids.