U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis
Today in Energy
The number of retail fueling stations offering motor fuel that can be up to 85% ethanol, known as E85, has grown rapidly since 2007. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC), Minnesota continues to lead the nation, with 336 E85 retail locations. However, in recent years, states outside of the Midwest have experienced some of the fastest growth. Currently, 2% of all retail stations in the United States offer E85, serving the approximately 5% of the U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet capable of running on E85.
Last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration launched an interactive, online Coal Data Browser that brings together in a single tool comprehensive data on the U.S. coal industry.
Note: FOB means free on board, which is the price at the plant excluding transportation costs.
The abundant 2013 corn harvest lowered the price of corn, a key input to ethanol production. In addition to lower corn input costs, ethanol producers are also benefiting from improving margins for dried distillers grains, an important supplement for animal feed that is the major co-product of ethanol production from corn. Sales of dried distillers grains provide a significant portion of the total revenue received by ethanol facilities, underpinning the economic feasibility of ethanol fuel production.
In 2013, North Sea Brent crude oil, the most important global benchmark for waterborne light sweet crude, traded in the narrowest price range since 2006 and exhibited the lowest magnitude of daily price movements in more than 10 years. The minimum closing price for 2013 was $97.69 per barrel (bbl) on April 17, and the maximum closing price was $118.90/bbl on February 8, representing a trading range of $21.21 for the year.
U.S. natural gas storage capacity grew 2% in 2013, according to a report just released by EIA, led by strong gains in salt-based storage in the traditional Producing region as well as in nonsalt storage fields in the West. In contrast, there was almost no growth in storage capacity in the East. Each measure of aggregate storage capacity tracked by EIA, demonstrated (peak volume of gas actually injected into active storage facilities) and design (physical storage capacity), increased by 2% from 2012.
Note: Net imports are expressed as negative values.
Changes in crude oil and petroleum products trade account for most of the recent narrowing of the total U.S. trade deficit. Monthly trade data show the value of crude and petroleum products net imports was roughly equal to the value of electronics net imports in November 2013, and close to the value of net imports of both machinery and vehicles and parts. The monthly oil and petroleum trade deficit had significantly exceeded that of other major commodity categories since it broke away from vehicles and parts in 2004.
Although coal trade only accounts for about 5% of trade flows in energy fuels, the volume of U.S. coal exports has steadily increased, from 50 million short tons (MMst) in 2005 to a record 126 MMst in 2012. Export volumes set a monthly record in March 2013, before declining in the second half of the year. Coal exports are an increasingly important source of revenue for U.S. coal producers, railroads, and barge companies. Coal's transportation through the supply chain affects its delivered price.
Natural gas trade flows are much lower, in terms of both monetary value and energy content, than trade flows associated with crude oil and petroleum products, as discussed in a previous article on energy trade. However, the value of U.S. natural gas net trade flows has experienced large percentage declines in recent years, because both the price and net volume of natural gas imports have been declining for several years.
The drop in net imports of oil (crude and petroleum products combined) was the major contributor to the United States reaching its lowest net trade deficit in November 2013 since 2009, although the trade deficit increased in the final month of 2013. U.S. oil trade, by far the dominant component of overall U.S. energy trade, has seen major changes in recent years. In both absolute and percentage terms, U.S. net import dependence measured volumetrically (in terms of barrels or barrels per day) has been declining since 2005.
Note: Energy fuels is a sub-category of total goods that includes crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas, coal, nuclear fuel materials, and electricity.
Energy trade has long been a key component of overall U.S. trade flows. Recent developments in U.S. energy production, notably the rapid growth of tight oil and shale gas output, are leading to significant changes in the nation's energy trade flows. Another important factor is consumption trends, which reflect both increased efficiency of vehicles and other energy-using equipment, and structural changes in the economy. This article, which focuses on current energy trade in the context of overall trade flows, will be followed by several others in the coming days that consider the evolution of trade flows in major energy fuel categories since 2002.