Bakken, Permian and Eagle Ford replacing Saudi imports of light and medium crudes
Imports of medium-grade crude oil to Gulf Coast refineries were down 45% in the first quarter of 2015 compared with the first quarter of 2014, reports the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Medium-grade crude imports fell to 0.8 MMBOPD in Q1’15 from 1.5 MMBOPD the year before. Almost all of those imports came from Middle Eastern producers, reports the EIA.
Imports to the Gulf from Saudi Arabia decreased by 52% from the first quarter of 2014 to 0.4 MMBOPD from 0.9 MMBOPD. Imports from Kuwait fell to 0.2 MMBOPD from 0.4 MMBOPD, 46% less from the first quarter of last year, according to the agency.
Decreasing imports of medium-grade crudes is following the same trend as light-grade crude imports to Gulf coast refineries, which decreased to nearly zero in 2014.The EIA reports that in November 2014, light-sweet imports to the Gulf were 552 MBOPD and light-sour imports were 125 MBOPD. In September 2014, light-sweet imports to the Gulf were just 7 MBOPD. These imports came largely from the Americas (Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Canada) and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq).
Increased production and infrastructure in the Eagle Ford, Bakken and Permian regions have greatly increased the ability of U.S. producers to meet the demands for light- and medium-grade crude oils domestically. The refining sector in the U.S. is designed to handle heavy crude oils, which have been increased with greater frequency over the last year.
The EIA reports that in the same period in which imports of medium-grade crudes declined by 45%, imports of heavy-grade crude oil to the Gulf increased by 22%, reaching 0.4 MMBOPD. Improved refining margins from processing additional volumes of heavy crude have resulted in a 3% increase in gross atmospheric distillation unit (ADU) throughput in the Gulf Coast region over this period, to 8.2 MMBOPD from 8.0 MMBOPD in Q1’14.