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Today in Energy

August 2, 2019

In the United States, most petroleum is consumed in transportation

U.S. petroleum flow, 2018
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review
Note: Click for full U.S. petroleum flow 2018 diagram.

Petroleum, which consists of crude oil and refined products such as gasoline, diesel, and propane, is the largest primary source of energy consumed in the United States, accounting for 36% of total energy consumption in 2018. Crude oil is processed at petroleum refineries to make many different products, such as motor gasoline, distillate fuel oil, hydrocarbon gas liquids, and jet fuel. More than two-thirds of finished petroleum products consumed in the United States are used in the transportation sector. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) U.S. petroleum flow diagram helps to visualize U.S. petroleum supply (production, imports, and withdrawals from storage) and disposition (consumption, exports, and additions to storage).

The large number of refined products and outlets for sale (e.g., gasoline stations) makes data difficult to collect and end-use consumption difficult to calculate. EIA uses petroleum product supplied to estimate petroleum consumption. EIA calculates product supplied by adding field production, refinery and blender net production, and imports and then subtracting stock change, refinery and blender net inputs, and exports. Petroleum product supplied increased for the sixth consecutive year in 2018, totaling about 20 million barrels per day (b/d).

U.S. petroleum product supplied, total field production, and net imports
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review
Note: Production includes crude oil, lease condensate, and natural gas liquids.

In 2018, U.S. exports of crude oil reached a record high of 2.0 million b/d, an increase of about 0.8 million b/d from 2017. U.S. crude oil exports have increased significantly since the beginning of 2016, after the U.S. Congress lifted restrictions on exporting crude oil. In addition, U.S. exports of total petroleum products reached a record high of 5.6 million b/d in 2018, an increase of 0.3 million b/d from the previous year.

The United States imported about 8 million b/d of crude oil in 2018, a 3% decrease from 2017. Net imports of crude oil and petroleum products were down to about 2 million b/d, the lowest level since 1967. The United States still imports crude oil because of geographic and quality considerations.

U.S. crude oil and natural gas liquids field production
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review
Note: Crude oil production includes lease condensate.

In 2018, total field production, which includes crude oil, lease condensate, and natural gas liquids, reached a record high of more than 15 million b/d. U.S. crude oil production reached a record high of nearly 11 million b/d in 2018, a 17% increase from the record set in 2017. Production of natural gas liquids reached a record high of more than 4 million b/d, a 15% increase from the record set in 2017. Increased production from tight oil and shale formations drove these record highs.

U.S. consumption of petroleum products by sector
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

Most crude oil is refined into petroleum products used for transportation, such as motor gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The transportation sector has been the largest consumer of petroleum products in the United States since at least 1949, the earliest year for which EIA has data. Transportation accounted for about 14 million b/d of petroleum consumption in 2018. This level was the second highest since its peak in 2007.

After transportation, the industrial sector accounts for the second-largest share of petroleum consumption, accounting for about 5 million b/d in 2018. Examples of industrial use of petroleum products include hydrocarbon gas liquids used as feedstocks for chemicals and plastics, as well as asphalt and road oil used for construction and road maintenance.

Petroleum data are available in various EIA sources, including

Principal contributor: Andrew York-Thomson