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Oil and petroleum products explained Oil imports and exports

The United States produces a large share of the petroleum1 it consumes, but it uses imports to help supply domestic and international markets

In 2019, the United States produced2 about 19.25 million barrels per day (MMb/d) of petroleum, and it consumed3 about 20.46 MMb/d. Imports from other countries help to supply domestic demand for petroleum. Some of the crude oil that the U.S. imports is refined by U.S. refineries into petroleum products (such as gasoline, heating oil, diesel fuel, and jet fuel) that the U.S. exports. Some of imported petroleum may be stored and subsequently exported.

The United States imported about 9.10 MMb/d of petroleum in 2019 from about 90 countries, which included 6.8 MMb/d of crude oil and 2.3 MMb/d of noncrude petroleum liquids and refined petroleum products. This was the lowest level of total petroleum imports since 1996.

U.S. exports of petroleum have increased significantly in recent years

Because the United States imports petroleum, it may be surprising that it also exports petroleum. In 2019, the United States exported petroleum to about 190 countries. U.S. total petroleum exports averaged about 8.5 MMb/d, which included nearly 3 MMb/d of crude oil, equal to about 35% of total petroleum exports.

U.S. petroleum net imports in 2019 were the lowest since 1954

Net imports (gross imports minus gross exports) of petroleum relative to petroleum consumption is one measure of the use of imports to help meet petroleum demand. After generally increasing every year from 1954 through 2005, U.S. total gross and net petroleum imports peaked in 2005. Even though consumption and imports have increased slightly in recent years, increases in domestic petroleum production and increases in petroleum exports have helped to reduce total annual petroleum net imports every year since 2005. In 2019, petroleum net imports averaged about 0.6 MMb/d, the equivalent of 3% of total U.S. petroleum consumption. This was down from the record share of 60% in 2005 and the lowest percentage since 1957.

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Share of imports from OPEC and Persian Gulf countries has declined, while the share of imports from Canada has increased

U.S. petroleum imports rose sharply in the 1970s, especially from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). In 1977, when the United States exported relatively small amounts of petroleum, OPEC nations were the source of 70% of U.S. total petroleum imports and the source of 85% of U.S. crude oil imports.

Since 1977, the share of U.S. total petroleum and crude oil imports from OPEC has generally declined. In 2019, OPEC's share of U.S. total petroleum imports was about 18%, and its share of U.S. crude oil imports was 22%. Saudi Arabia, the largest OPEC exporter, was the source of 6% of U.S. total petroleum imports and 7% of U.S. crude oil imports. Saudi Arabia is also the largest source of U.S. petroleum imports from Persian Gulf countries. About 11% of U.S. total petroleum imports and 13% of U.S. crude oil imports were from Persian Gulf countries in 2019.

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Petroleum imports from Canada increased significantly since the 1990s, and Canada is now the largest single source of U.S. total petroleum and crude oil imports. In 2019, Canada was the source of 49% of U.S. total gross petroleum imports and 56% of gross crude oil imports.

  • The top five sources of U.S. total petroleum (including crude oil) imports by share of total petroleum imports in 2019 were
  • Canada49%
  • Mexico7%
  • Saudi Arabia6%
  • Russia6%
  • Colombia4%
  • The top five sources of U.S. crude oil imports by share of total crude oil imports in 2019 were
  • Canada56%
  • Mexico9%
  • Saudi Arabia7%
  • Iraq5%
  • Colombia5%

did you know?

OPEC and Persian Gulf countries are not the same.

Of the 13 members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as of January 1, 2020, five of them were Persian Gulf countries: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The majority of total U.S. petroleum exports are petroleum liquids and refined petroleum products

Because of logistical, regulatory, and quality considerations, exporting some petroleum is the most economical way to meet the market's needs. For example, refiners in the U.S. Gulf Coast region frequently find that it makes economic sense to export some of their gasoline to Mexico rather than shipping it to the U.S. East Coast because lower cost gasoline imports from Europe may be available to the East Coast.

Petroleum liquids include hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL). HGL exports, mainly propane, have increased substantially since 2008, and in 2019 represented about 21% of total gross petroleum exports.

  • The top five destinations of U.S. total petroleum exports (including crude oil) by share of total petroleum exports in 2019 were
  • Mexico14%
  • Canada12%
  • South Korea7%
  • Japan7%
  • Brazil6%

  • The top five destinations of U.S. crude oil exports by share of total oil exports in 2019 were
  • Canada15%
  • South Korea14%
  • Netherlands9%
  • India9%
  • United Kingdom8%

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Does the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) know which companies purchase imported crude oil or gasoline?

Although EIA cannot identify which companies sell imported gasoline or gasoline refined from imported oil, it does publish data on the companies that import petroleum into the United States. However, the fact that a given company imports crude oil does not mean that those imports will be used to produce the gasoline sold to motorists as that company's brand of gasoline. Gasoline from different refineries and import terminals is often combined for shipment by pipeline. Different companies owning service stations in the same area may be purchasing gasoline at the same bulk terminal, which may or may not include imported gasoline or gasoline refined from imported oil.

1 Petrolelum is a broadly defined class of liquid hydrocarbon mixtures that include crude oil, lease condensate, unfinished oils, and products produced from refining crude oil and from processing natural gas plant liquids, including hydrocarbon gas liquids. Volumes of finished petroleum products include non-hydrocarbon compounds, such as fuel ethanol, biodiesel, additives, and detergents, that are blended into the products.

2 U.S. domestic petroleum production includes field production of crude oil and natural gas liquids, renewable fuels and oxygenate plant net production, and refinery processing gain. Preliminary data for 2019.

3 Consumption is represented by product supplied. Preliminary data for 2019.

Last updated: Aril 27, 2020