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In 'remarkable' reversal, US now a net energy exporter for 1st time in 60 years

For the first time in almost 60 years, the U.S. has become a net total energy exporter despite ongoing trade tensions, the American Petroleum Institute said Dec. 19.

"Never before has a major energy-consuming nation also become a top global exporter of total energy — usually it's the other way around," API Chief Economist Dean Foreman said Dec. 19 in releasing the trade group's latest monthly statistics as well as its "Q4 2019 Industry Outlook."

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While U.S. crude output swelled to a record high for the month of November, so did consumption, due to steady economic growth. The U.S. produced 12.8 million barrels of crude oil per day in November. At the same time, U.S. oil and petroleum exports held steady above 8.0 million bbl/d, while domestic demand for them totaled 21.0 million bbl/d.

"The fact that U.S. production has been able to simultaneously satisfy strong domestic demand and supply continued international demand for U.S. exports while maintaining relatively low and stable prices is remarkable," Foreman said.

Aided by rampant growth in shale output, U.S. oil imports have fallen for the first time ever, the API said. In fact, the U.S. is on track to see the largest year-on-year drop in net imports since the government lifted the export ban in December 2015, the Energy Information Administration recently noted.

Year to date through Nov. 15, U.S. crude oil imports were down by 980,083 bbl/d from the 2018 full-year average, while U.S. crude oil exports climbed by 931,211 bbl/d over the same period, for a net decline in net imports of 1.9 million bbl/d.

In its fourth-quarter outlook, the API said U.S. oil and gas output should continue to swell in 2020 due to expanded pipeline infrastructure, particularly in the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico. About 1.1 million bbl/d of new crude oil pipeline capacity and 5 Bcf/d of new natural gas pipeline capacity was added in the Permian in 2019.

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In the last 10 years, Permian oil production has quadrupled from under 1 million bbl/d to more than 4 million bbl/d, while gas production surged from about 4.5 Bcf/d to more than 14.5 Bcf/d, according to U.S. government statistics. The surge in output maxed out existing infrastructure, which created pipeline constraints, logistical issues and huge price differentials.

Meantime, the API said the U.S. refining industry appears to be well-prepared for IMO 2020. Starting Jan. 1, 2020, under IMO 2020, merchant vessels must either burn fuel containing no more than 0.5% sulfur by weight or install scrubbers to continue burning non-compliant fuel. The new rules are expected to induce an increase in distillate demand of more than 1.4 million bbl/d.