November 30, 2011

U.S.Now a Net Exporter of Oil-Based Fuels

[This story is behind the WSJ paywall, so access may be limited]
An interesting and potent development for the U.S., a net importer of refined oil-based products for more than 60 years. I wonder about the economics of this. We are still a huge importer of crude oil at 9 million barrels per day. Yet, after refining, we turn an increasingly larger portion of that into exported products like gasoline and diesel fuel.
Does it make economic sense to ship crude oil here and then turn around and ship refined products abroad? If the prices remain high for refined products, transportation costs must be of less consequence than previously with efficient and massive supertankers. The exports to developing economies must be priced high enough to turn a profit or companies would not do it . Intuitively it seems to make more sense to build and operate refineries closer to the source of the crude oil supplies and the customers for refined products, for maximum efficiency and profitability.
"U.S. exports of gasoline, diesel and other oil-based fuels are soaring, putting the nation on track to be a net exporter of petroleum products in 2011 for the first time in 62 years.
A combination of booming demand from emerging markets and faltering domestic activity means the U.S. is exporting more fuel than it imports, upending the historical norm.
According to data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Tuesday, the U.S. sent abroad 753.4 million barrels of everything from gasoline to jet fuel in the first nine months of this year, while it imported 689.4 million barrels.
That the U.S. is shipping out more fuel than it brings in is significant because the nation has for decades been a voracious energy consumer. It took in huge quantities of not only crude oil from the Middle East but also refined fuels from Europe, Latin America and elsewhere to help run its factories and cars."
USEXPORTS"As recently as 2005, the U.S. imported nearly 900 million barrels more of petroleum products than it exported. Since then the deficit has been steadily shrinking until finally disappearing last fall, and analysts say the country will not lose its "net exporter" tag anytime soon."
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