Last updateMon, 26 Jul 2021 9pm

EIA: U.S. Oil Exports Set New High Mark in 2020

Despite volatility in global oil markets, U.S. crude oil exports reached a record high in 2020. So far this year (as of July 9, 2021), U.S. crude oil exports have averaged 3.00 million barrels per day (b/d). The most recent four-week rolling average of U.S. crude oil exports reached 3.51 million b/d, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In 2013, the U.S. government lifted export restrictions on minimally processed ultra-light oil. In the summer of 2015, the U.S. and Mexico entered into an oil exchange agreement, and the restrictions on oil exports were fully lifted in December 2015. U.S. crude oil exports have increased significantly since 2015 and have averaged around 3.00 million b/d every year since 2019. 

Oil, Gas Drilling Permits Approved at Highest Rate Since 2008

“The Interior Department approved about 2,500 permits to drill on public and tribal lands in the first six months of the year,” according to The Associated Press. Since Biden took office in January 20, more than 2,100 drilling permits have been approved and they are on pace to reach their highest level since President George W. Bush’s final year in office.

“New Mexico and Wyoming had the largest number of approvals. Montana, Colorado and Utah had hundreds each.” 

OPEC+ Stalemate Threatens Recovery

World oil markets are on edge with OPEC+ negotiations to boost supply now in deadlock. After initially surging to multi-year highs in early July, according to the International Energy Agency’s Oil Market Report, benchmark crude oil prices have since eased.

The OPEC+ stalemate means that until a compromise can be reached, production quotas will remain at July’s levels. In that case, oil markets will tighten significantly as demand rebounds from last year’s COVID-induced plunge. The overhang in global oil stocks that built up last year has already been worked off, with OECD industry stocks now well below historical averages. 

Refinery Closures Decreased U.S. Refinery Capacity in 2020

As a result of several U.S. refinery closures in 2020, U.S. operable atmospheric crude oil distillation capacity, the primary measure of refinery capacity in the U.S., dropped 4.5% to a total of 18.1 million barrels per calendar day (b/cd) at the start of 2021. The end-of-year 2020 total is 0.8 million b/cd less than the 19.0 million b/cd of refining capacity at the start of 2020. According to the data in the annual Refinery Capacity Report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the beginning of 2021 marks the lowest annual capacity figure to start the year since 2015. Based on information reported to us in the recent update, U.S. refining capacity will not expand significantly during 2021. 

Chemical Activity Barometer Rises in June

The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council, rose 0.8% in June on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis following a 1.3% gain in May. On a year-over-year basis, the barometer rose 19.5% in June (3MMA).

The unadjusted data show a 0.1% decline in June, primarily due to weakness in equities, following a 1.3% gain in May. The diffusion index reached 85% in June. The diffusion index marks the number of positive contributors relative to the total number of indicators monitored. The CAB reading for May was revised upward by 0.73 points and that for April was revised upward by 0.35 points. The June data are provisional and subject to revision. 

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