OPEC crude oil imports fall to lowest level since 1986

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 480 views 

U.S. imports of crude oil from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) declined to the lowest level since March 1986, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The imports were 1.5 million barrels per day in March, and have generally fallen over the past decade as U.S. crude oil production has risen.

Between the early 1980s and late 2000s, OPEC member countries provided nearly half of U.S. crude oil imports. Over the past decade, total U.S. crude oil imports have fallen, and OPEC’s share of those imports has decreased. Non-OPEC countries, including Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, have accounted for a larger share of the imports. Over the past four years, Canada has supplied more crude oil to the United States than all OPEC members combined.

Through the first three months of 2019, U.S. crude oil imports from OPEC members Venezuela and Iraq have fallen the most. In 2018, Venezuela provided 505,000 barrels per day of crude oil to the United States, or 20% of the OPEC total. In March, the United States received 47,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Venezuela. The United States imported no crude oil from Venezuela during several weeks throughout March and May, according to the EIA.

The low levels of imports from Venezuela have been a result of U.S. sanctions directed at Venezuela’s energy sector and Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. But the imports from Venezuela had been falling even before the sanctions as Venezuelan crude oil production has declined. Long-term mismanagement of Venezuela’s oil industry and widespread power outages since the start of the year have contributed to the decline.

Crude oil imports from other OPEC members have fallen after they and some non-OPEC producers in November 2016 agreed to cut production. The cuts led some OPEC members to decrease exports to the United States and increase exports to growing markets in Asia. In the first three months of 2019, U.S. crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq — the two largest sources of imports from OPEC in 2018 — were an average of 26% and 28% below their 2018 average levels.

For the first time, the Gulf Coast region, which includes states such as Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, received a lower amount of OPEC crude oil than the West Coast region. Nearly all crude oil imports to the Midwest come from Canada, and the Midwest region has imported more crude oil than the Gulf Coast every month from November to March. The Gulf Coast region has been a net exporter of crude oil every month between November and March. More than 90% of U.S. crude oil exported since the start of 2018 has been shipped from Gulf Coast ports.

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