EIA launches new tool for crude oil import analysis

Energy Information Administration

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released a new US Crude Oil Import Tracking Tool that allows policymakers, analysts, and the public to more easily track trends in crude oil imports. Users can sort and display crude oil imports by month or year, by crude type (i.e., light, medium, heavy), country source, port of entry, processing company, processing refinery, and more. The tool features graphing and mapping capabilities and a built-in help function.

Recent and forecast increases in domestic crude production have sparked discussion about how rising crude oil volumes will be absorbed. To date, a primary mechanism for absorbing increased production has been the displacement of imported crude oil, which has fallen from 8.9 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2011 to 7.5 million bbl/d in August.

This tool sheds light on the adjustments to imports being made in response to growing production of crude oil within the US. It is one part of the EIA’s ongoing effort to assess the effects of a possible relaxation of current limitations on US crude oil exports, which is another avenue to accommodate domestic production growth. The EIA is undertaking further work on this larger question, and expects to issue more analysis reports over the coming months.

Launched on the EIA's beta site to solicit customer feedback, and also to incorporate that feedback into the final release, the new tool represents the EIA's latest step in making energy data more accessible, understandable, relevant, and responsive to users' needs. 

Also released is a report, “EIA’s U.S. Crude Oil Import Tracking Tool: Selected Sample Applications,” that provides examples of the application of the new tool. The examples were selected to illustrate the tool’s capabilities to access information from the EIA’s monthly Company Level Import database for different time periods, regions, companies, and crude oil qualities. Using the tool yielded the following insights regarding recent trends in US crude oil imports:

  • Volume and quality of US crude oil imports: US crude oil imports have declined since 2010, with nearly all of the decline occurring in light sweet grades. In particular, US light crude imports fell 71% between 2010 and the period January through August.

  • Source of US crude oil imports: Imports of light crude from Africa, particularly from Nigeria and Algeria, have declined by 93%.

  • Light crude oil imports by region: The largest decline in crude oil imports occurred on the Gulf Coast (PADD 3), down 94%. Light crude oil imports by East Coast (PADD 1) refiners were down 69%, reflecting both their increased use of domestic crudes and modestly lower refinery runs.

  • Refinery-level trends in light crude imports: Imports by the 10 largest refineries using imported light crude in 2013 accounted for 55% of total US light crude imports, with the remaining 45% scattered among more than 100 other refineries. The largest source for light crude imports among this group of 10 refineries was Canada, followed by Nigeria and Mexico. Of these 10 refineries, three are located on the East Coast, two in the Midwest, three on the Gulf Coast, and two on the West Coast.

  • Refinery-level trends in imports other than light sweet crude: There is evidence that some refineries have recently reduced imports of medium and heavy grades of crude oil in order to accommodate increasing light domestic production. Other refiners, which have made changes in processing equipment to accommodate heavier crudes, have increased their imports of such crudes.

The EIA’s US Crude Oil Import Tracking Tool can be found at http://www.eia.gov/beta/petroleum/imports/browser/.

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