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Oil: crude and petroleum products explained Oil imports and exports

The United States produces a large share of the petroleum it consumes, but it still relies on imports to help meet demand

In 2018, the United States produced1 about 17.7 million barrels of petroleum per day (MMb/d), and it consumed2 about 20.5 MMb/d. Imports from other countries help to supply domestic demand for petroleum.

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Petroleum includes more than just crude oil

Petroleum includes more products than just crude oil. Petroleum includes refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, unfinished oils, and other liquids such as fuel ethanol, blending components for gasoline, and other refinery inputs.

In 2018, the United States imported about 9.9 MMb/d of petroleum, which included 7.8 MMb/d of crude oil and 2.1 MMb/d of noncrude petroleum liquids and refined petroleum products.

U.S. reliance on petroleum imports has declined in recent years

Net imports (imports minus exports) of petroleum relative to petroleum consumption is one measure of our reliance on imports to help meet petroleum demand. After generally increasing every year between 1950 and 2005, U.S. total and net petroleum imports peaked in 2005. Even though consumption and imports have increased slightly in recent years, increases in domestic petroleum production and exports have helped to reduce total annual net imports every year since 2005. In 2018, net imports of petroleum averaged 2.3 MMb/d, the equivalent of 11% of total U.S. petroleum consumption 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 total U.S. petroleum imports. Since 1977, the share of total U.S. petroleum imports from OPEC has generally declined. In 2018, OPEC's share of total U.S. petroleum imports was about 29%. OPEC member Saudi Arabia was the second-largest source of U.S. petroleum imports at about 9% of total U.S. petroleum imports, and it was the largest source from OPEC countries.

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In 2018, about 16% of U.S. petroleum imports came from Persian Gulf countries, and Saudi Arabia was the largest source of U.S. imports from Persian Gulf countries.

Canada is one of the largest sources of U.S. petroleum imports, and petroleum imports from Canada have increased significantly since the 1990s. Canada was the source of 15% of U.S. petroleum imports in 1994 and 43% in 2018.

  • The five largest sources of U.S. petroleum imports by percent share of total petroelum imports in 2018 were
  • Canada43%
  • Saudi Arabia9%
  • Mexico7%
  • Venezuela6%
  • Iraq5%

did youknow


OPEC and Persian Gulf countries are not the same.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), was organized in 1960 for the purpose of negotiating with oil companies on matters of oil production, prices, and future concession rights. Of the 15 OPEC member countries at the end of 2018, only 6 of them were Persian Gulf countries.

Countries in bold are members of both organizations.

OPEC Persian Gulf
Iran Iran
Iraq Iraq
Kuwait Kuwait
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia
Qatar Qatar
United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates
Algeria Bahrain
Equatorial Guinea

The United States exports petroleum

Because the United States imports petroleum, it may seem surprising that it also exports petroleum. In 2018, total U.S. petroleum exports averaged about 7.6 MMb/d, which included about 2.0 MMb/d of crude oil or about 26% of total petroleum exports.

Most 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 East Coast of the United States, because lower cost gasoline imports from Europe may be available to the East Coast.

  • The five largest destinations of U.S. petroleum exports by share of total exports in 2018 were
  • Mexico16%
  • Canada13%
  • Japan6%
  • Brazil5%
  • South Korea5%

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 imported 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 U.S. domestic petroleum production includes total petroleum field production, renewable fuels and oxygenate plant net production, and refinery processing gain. Preliminary data for 2018.

2 Consumption equals product supplied. Preliminary data for 2018.

Last updated: May 29, 2019