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US will remain major gasoline exporter with oil below $60/b: analyst

Washington — Global gasoline demand will rise as long as crude stays below $60/b, and a shortage of Asian gasoline refining capacity will drive US exports higher, Fereidun Fesharaki, chairman of Facts Global Energy consultancy, said Thursday.

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"Any way that we look at the future refineries under construction [in Asia], they cannot produce enough gasoline," Fesharaki said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Fesharaki expects US net exports of refined products to keep rising.

In a decade, the US has made a dramatic swing from 3.9 million b/d of net imports in October 2005 to 2.3 million b/d in net exports in July, according to US Energy Information Administration data.

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"As time goes by, there is a gasoline shortage worldwide that only US refiners can supply," he said. "We expect huge amounts of exports of US gasoline to all over Asia, without which Asia cannot balance its system."

Fesharaki said another dramatic shift in refining economics will come as a result of the International Maritime Organization's announcement Thursday to impose a 0.5% global sulfur limit starting in 2020, rather than delaying it for five years.

"Today we have 4 million b/d of bunkering, which is using 3.5%-4% [sulfur] fuel oil," he said, with most of that demand in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

"If God almighty comes from the heavens, he cannot make 0.5% fuel oil by 2020," he said.

Fesharaki said that will lead to cheating, rampant noncompliance, and use of US LNG for bunkering and blended diesel.

"So all the diesel surpluses in the world today are going to be blended into high sulfur fuel oil," he said. "The price of fuel oil will collapse, and refinery economics will go through the roof."

--Meghan Gordon,
--Edited by Annie Siebert,