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US refinery exports are small compared to crude imports [ClearOnMoney]
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US refinery exports are small compared to crude imports

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Commentary

US refinery exports are small compared to crude imports

8 Feb 2013 by Jim Fickett.

From time to time one sees articles trumpeting the growth in US exports of gasoline and other refined petroleum products. It is true, and a good thing, that increases in production mean the US switched, in 2011, from being a net importer of refined petroleum products to being a net exporter. But this is often confused with the current faddish idea of US energy independence as, for example, in a Bloomberg article today:

Record petroleum exports helped shrink the U.S. trade deficit in December to the smallest in almost three years as America moved closer to energy self- sufficiency, a goal the nation has been pursuing since the 1973 Arab oil embargo.

In fact crude imports still dominate the picture. As shown in a post last November (The US is still far from energy independence), the US produces only about 40% of crude oil consumed. Crude production is currently running at about 7 million barrels per day, so net imports are about 10 million barrels per day. On the other hand, net exports of finished petroleum products (exports minus imports) are currently running at about 2 million barrels per day. So, although the net exports of refined fuels do improve the picture somewhat, the US is still a big importer of crude oil together with its products. (For further details see the overall Supply and disposition of petroleum and other liquids table from the EIA.)

The most flattering picture one can paint for oil is to group all fossil-fuel-related liquids together. The natural gas boom has resulted in large increases in natural gas liquids which, though important both as fuel and as chemical industry feedstock, are not in any sense substitutes for oil. But even in this very flattering view, the US is still a big net importer of liquids, and this dependence on imports is projected to continue for decades: