Total U.S. petroleum product exports continued to increase in 2015, up 467,000 barrels per day (b/d) from 2014 to 4.3 million b/d, driven by increased exports of distillate fuel, motor gasoline, and propane. Mexico and countries in Central and South America continue to be major recipients of U.S. petroleum product exports.
Exports of distillate fuel oil represent the largest component of U.S. petroleum product exports, and averaged 1.19 million b/d in 2015, an increase of 85,000 b/d from 2014. The United States exported distillate fuel to 88 different countries in 2015. The top destination for U.S. distillate exports was Mexico, averaging 143,000 b/d in 2015, an increase of 15,000 b/d from the previous year. Distillate exports to Central and South America averaged 595,000 b/d in 2015, up 10,000 b/d from the previous year. Chile was the region's largest single importer of U.S. distillate in 2015, averaging 101,000 b/d.
As continued high U.S. refinery runs and a warmer-than-normal heating season combined to push U.S. distillate inventories above the five-year average and combined to push prices lower, exports of distillate to Western Europe also increased. In the third and fourth quarters of 2015, distillate exports to Western Europe increased year-over-year by 80,000 b/d and 136,000 b/d, respectively. Increased U.S. exports contributed to high distillate inventories in the major refining and petroleum hubs of Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and Antwerp in Belgium, collectively known as the ARA.
Motor gasoline was the second-largest U.S. petroleum product export in 2015, averaging 618,000 b/d and exported to 102 different countries, up 68,000 b/d from 2014. As with distillate, Mexico is the largest recipient of U.S. motor gasoline exports, averaging 307,000 b/d in 2015. Central and South America are also a major destination for U.S. motor gasoline exports, receiving 228,000 b/d in 2015, up 29,000 b/d from 2014. U.S. exports of motor gasoline to Africa decreased by 28,000 b/d in 2015 compared with 2014, mostly because of lower exports to Nigeria, one of Africa's largest gasoline importers, as fuel import program reforms took place in that country.
U.S. exports of propane nearly matched those of motor gasoline at 615,000 b/d in 2015, up 193,000 b/d from the previous year. Low U.S. propane prices have encouraged the expansion of propane export capacity since 2013. Unlike exports of distillate and motor gasoline, U.S. propane exports are destined mainly for Asia, averaging 220,000 b/d in 2015, an increase of 138,000 b/d over 2014. Asia is expected to be the leading source of global propane consumption growth, with an expanding petrochemical sector as the main driver.
Some of the imports from the United States in the region encompassing Central and South America in 2015 reflected supply constraints that are likely to be temporary. For example, Ecuadorian demand for U.S. gasoline increased while PetroEcuador's 110,000 b/d Esmeraldas refinery was closed for most of the year for a major upgrade. Colombian demand for U.S. gasoline and distillate supplies increased after a reduction in supply from neighboring Venezuela and after delays in the opening of Ecopetrol's new 165,000 b/d refinery in Cartagena. Supplies from the new and upgraded refineries in Ecuador and Colombia, along with Petrobras's new 230,000 b/d Abreu e Lima refinery in Brazil, have the potential to reduce that country's need for gasoline and distillate imports from the United States.
Principal contributor: T. Mason Hamilton