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US crude imports on pace for lowest total since 1993

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Washington — Crude oil flows between the US and Canada continued at or near record levels this month, as US importers zeroed out all imports from Venezuela, Kuwait and Nigeria for the first time since the US Energy Information Administration began tracking import data.

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Overall, the US imported about 7.3 million b/d of crude oil for the week ended July 5, down from an average of 7.8 million b/d in 2018, but above the weekly import average of 7.08 million b/d so far in 2019, according to the EIA.

Going by monthly data, the US has imported an average of 6.91 million b/d of crude this year, which, if holds, would mark the lowest annual import average since 1993.

The US' annual import average peaked at 10.13 million b/d in 2005.

The US imported no crude from Venezuela, Kuwait, and Nigeria last week, due to sanctions, the rise of domestic production and an increase in Canadian imports.

US refiners have imported no Venezuelan crude for seven straight weeks and for 12 out of the last 17 weeks, according to the EIA. Imports of Venezuelan crude averaged 713,000 for the week ending September 28, 2018, the highest weekly average over the past year.

The US imposed sanctions on PDVSA, Venezuela's state oil company, in January, effectively creating a de facto ban on US imports of Venezuelan crude.

The US has not imported a Kuwaiti barrel for four straight weeks and has not imported Nigerian crude eight separate weeks over the past year, data shows.

CANADIAN CLIMB

While imports are in decline, US crude exports and imports to and from Canada have risen to historic highs.

US imports of Canadian crude averaged 3.95 million b/d for week ending July 5, the second-highest weekly average ever and more than half the crude imported into the US last week, according to the EIA. US imports of Canadian crude hit a record earlier this year of over 4.06 million b/d for the week ending January 18.

US exports of crude oil averaged 3.05 million b/d last week, down from a record 3.77 million b/d set two weeks earlier, according to EIA. US crude exports are on track to average nearly 2.9 million b/d this year, a nearly 1 million b/d jump from 2018.

The US is shipping about 20% of its crude to Canadian refiners.

US crude oil exports to Canada surged to a record 589,500 b/d in April, as imports to Canada from Saudi Arabia steeply declined, according to EIA and Statistics Canada.

US crude oil exports to Canada marked a new record high, a roughly 72% jump from a year earlier, according to the EIA.

The data shows US crude is now filling a supply gap for at least one Canadian refiner as the Saudis have slowed imports.

The EIA forecasts US crude oil and petroleum product net imports will average 600,000 b/d in 2019, down from 2.3 million b/d in 2018. EIA expects the US to be a net exporter of crude and products by Q4 2019, exporting at a rate of 100,000 b/d, before increasing to 500,000 b/d by 2020.

-- Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jim Levesque, newsdesk@spglobal.com