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Petroleum & Other Liquids

This Week in Petroleum

Release date: March 21, 2018  |  Next release date: March 28, 2018

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U.S. petroleum product exports continued to grow in 2017

U.S. exports of petroleum products continued to grow in 2017, increasing 555,000 barrels per day (b/d) from 2016 to reach 5.2 million b/d. Rising U.S. exports of petroleum products such as hydrocarbon gas liquids (including propane), distillate, and gasoline are largely the result of increased U.S. refinery runs, which continued to set record highs in 2017. Gross refinery inputs averaged 16.9 million b/d in 2017, but refinery utilization, while reaching 91%, did not set a new record because refinery capacity has increased in recent years. Strong global economic growth spurring overall demand, combined with market factors unique to each product, supported U.S. petroleum product exports.

Since 2010, increased exports of petroleum products were the largest contributors to increasing U.S. total petroleum exports. However, in 2017, the largest single contributor to export growth was crude oil. U.S. crude oil exports grew 527,000 b/d from the 2016 level, while distillate grew by 198,000 b/d, the largest year-on-year growth in exports for a single petroleum product (Figure 1). The increase in U.S. crude oil exports was only slightly less than the increase in total petroleum products as a whole.

Figure 1. Year-over-year growth in crude oil and product export

Distillate continued to be the most exported U.S. petroleum product at 1.4 million b/d in 2017. U.S. distillate exports went to 79 different destinations in 2017. Although Mexico was the largest single destination (18%), markets in Central America, South America, and Europe, including Brazil, Chile, the Netherlands, and Peru, continue to be routine destinations for U.S. distillate exports (Figure 2).

In 2017, the United States exported approximately 27% of total domestic distillate production, after years of increasing exports and relatively flat U.S. consumption growth. U.S. distillate exports are highest in the summer months, because domestic distillate demand is highest in the winter months. In February, warmer-than-normal temperatures and low distillate prices prompted higher-than-normal winter exports of distillate to international markets from the U.S. Central Atlantic region.

Figure 2. U.S. distillate exports and destinations

In 2017, the United States exported 905,000 b/d of propane, exceeding exports of motor gasoline for the second consecutive year to remain the second-largest U.S. petroleum product export. U.S. propane exports went to 58 different destinations in 2017, with the largest volumes going to supply petrochemical feedstock demand in Asia (Figure 3).

In late 2017, due in part to greater U.S. propane exports, U.S. propane prices re-established a closer link with international propane and crude oil prices. Previously, increased domestic production and a lack of export capacity swelled propane inventories and led to lower U.S. propane prices compared with both international propane and crude oil prices.

Figure 3. U.S. propane exports and destinations

U.S. motor gasoline exports increased to 821,000 b/d in 2017, despite rising domestic consumption. In 2017, U.S. consumption of gasoline, measured as product supplied, matched the record-high level set in 2016 of 9.3 million b/d. Record-high refinery runs and historically high gasoline production provided supplies for both record high domestic consumption and increasing gasoline exports. The United States also became an even larger net gasoline exporter in 2017 with net exports of 185,000 b/d, up from 56,000 b/d in 2016, the first year of positive U.S. net gasoline exports.

Gasoline exports went to 69 different destinations in 2017, although more than half went to Mexico (Figure 4). Changes to Mexico’s retail gasoline and diesel fuel markets, combined with low utilization at Mexico’s refineries, resulted in increased gasoline imports from the United States.

Figure 4. U.S. total motor gasoline exports and destinations

U.S. average regular gasoline price increases, diesel price decreases

The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price rose nearly 4 cents from the previous week to $2.60 per gallon on March 19, 2018, up 28 cents from the same time last year. Midwest prices increased nearly six cents to $2.50 per gallon, West Coast prices increased nearly five cents to $3.22 per gallon, Gulf Coast prices increased three cents to $2.30 per gallon, East Coast prices increased nearly three cents to $2.54 per gallon, and Rocky Mountain prices increased two cents to $2.44 per gallon.

The U.S. average diesel fuel price dipped slightly to $2.97 per gallon on March 19, 2018, 43 cents higher than a year ago. East Coast prices fell almost two cents to $3.01 per gallon, West Coast prices fell slightly to $3.38 per gallon, and Midwest prices were virtually unchanged at $2.90 per gallon. Rocky Mountain prices increased over two cents to $2.93 per gallon, and Gulf Coast prices increased by less than one cent to $2.79 per gallon.

Residential heating fuel prices decrease, wholesale prices increase

As of March 19, 2018, residential heating oil prices averaged $3.06 per gallon, nearly 1 cent per gallon lower than last week but 46 cents per gallon higher than last year's price at this time. The average wholesale heating oil price for this week averaged $2.01 per gallon, 3 cents per gallon higher than last week and 41 cents per gallon higher than a year ago.

Residential propane prices averaged almost $2.49 per gallon, one cent per gallon lower than last week but eight cents per gallon higher than a year ago. Wholesale propane prices averaged $0.87 per gallon, 3 cents per gallon higher than last week and nearly 18 cents per gallon higher than last year's price. EIA has revised the Residential Propane prices for October 2 through December 11, 2017.

Notice: EIA discovered inconsistent pricing methodology across respondents for Residential Propane prices in most states since October 2, 2017. EIA received correct data and revised prices for October 2 through December 11, 2017. EIA has created revision tables showing the differences between the revised prices and the originally published prices.

For questions about This Week in Petroleum, contact the Petroleum Markets Team at 202-586-4522.

Tags: Canada , distillate fuel , Europe , exports/imports , gasoline , Mexico , propane , refineries

Retail prices (dollars per gallon)

Retail price graphs
  Retail prices Change from last
  03/19/18 Week Year
Gasoline 2.598 0.039 0.277
Diesel 2.972 -0.004 0.433
Heating Oil 3.059 -0.005 0.459
Propane 2.486 -0.013 0.081

Futures prices (dollars per gallon*)

Futures price graphs
  Futures prices Change from last
  03/16/18 Week Year
Crude oil 62.34 0.30 13.56
Gasoline 1.946 0.042 0.347
Heating oil 1.912 0.025 0.403
*Note: Crude oil price in dollars per barrel.

Stocks (million barrels)

Stock price graphs
  Stocks Change from last
  03/16/18 Week Year
Crude oil 428.3 -2.6 -104.8
Gasoline 243.1 -1.7 -0.4
Distillate 131.0 -2.0 -24.3
Propane 36.759 -2.061 -7.574