Growth in Propane Exports Drove US Petroleum Product Export Growth in 1st Half of 2016

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In the first half of 2016, the United States exported 4.7 million barrels per day (b/d) of petroleum products, an increase of 500,000 b/d over the first half of 2015 and almost 10 times the crude oil export volume. While U.S. exports of distillate and gasoline increased by 50,000 b/d and nearly 140,000 b/d, respectively, propane exports increased by more than 230,000 b/d. Propane surpassed motor gasoline to become the second-largest U.S. petroleum product export, after distillate.

Although total U.S. petroleum product exports grew, export destinations remained largely unchanged. Mexico, Canada, and the Netherlands received the greatest volumes of U.S. petroleum products in the first half of 2016, importing 775,000 b/d, 579,000 b/d, and 271,000 b/d, respectively. U.S. petroleum products tend to stay in the Western Hemisphere. In 2015, approximately 60% of total petroleum product exports remained within the Western Hemisphere, down slightly from 65% in 2005.

Distillate exports averaged 1.2 million b/d in the first half of 2016, an increase of 50,000 b/d from the same period of 2015. Central and South America accounted for the largest share of U.S. distillate exports, averaging more than 620,000 b/d in the first half of 2016, up more than 30,000 b/d from the same period of 2015. The largest single destination overall for U.S. distillate exports was Mexico, which averaged 147,000 b/d in the first half of 2016.

U.S. propane exports increased from 562,000 b/d in the first half of 2015 to 793,000 b/d in the same period of 2016. Exports to Asia and Oceania accounted for 94% of this growth. Japan imported the most U.S. propane at 159,000 b/d in the first half of 2016, an increase of 111,000 b/d from 48,000 b/d in the same period of 2015. U.S. exports of propane to Panama, however, fell from 41,000 b/d in the first half of 2015 to 7,000 b/d in the first half of 2016.

The large increases in propane exports to Japan and decreases in propane exports to Panama could be a result of reduced ship-to-ship transfer activity. Some of the propane exports from the United States that undergo ship-to-ship transfers will cite the location of the transfer and not the final destination of the propane. This often results in larger-than-actual export numbers for the countries where the ship-to-ship transfers take place and in less-than-actual numbers for some final destinations.

Gasoline exports increased 138,000 b/d in the first half of 2016 compared with the first half of 2015. North America (Canada and Mexico) accounted for most of the growth, with an increase of 92,000 b/d. Similar to U.S. distillate fuel exports, Mexico represented the largest single recipient of U.S. gasoline exports at 363,000 b/d in the first half of 2016, up from 283,000 b/d in the first half of 2015. As part of the energy reforms passed in 2013, Mexico liberalized its energy sector, allowing market participants other than the state company Petroléos Mexicanos (Pemex). In January 2016, as part of the liberalization process, Mexico began to allow companies besides Pemex to import fuels, resulting in increased exports from nearby refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Canada was the second-largest recipient of U.S. gasoline at 66,000 b/d in the first half of 2016, up from 55,000 b/d in the first half of 2015.

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