By Andrew Nichols: EnerCom

Over the past decade the United States shifted the trends in crude oil imports and exports. U.S. oil imports peaked at almost 11 million barrels of oil a day in late 2006. Since then, crude oil imports declined over the years and are at about 6 million barrels a day as of the end of May 2021. Exports were almost nonexistent until 2014 when the U.S started exporting crude oil in greater volumes.  Since then, exports increased, but only up until 2020. Both trends, crude oil imports decreasing and exports increasing, reversed after 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the import side, we saw a massive drop in early 2020 due to lockdowns and less demand for oil. Then there was a large spike in imports in late 2020 which brought crude oil imports to exactly where they were before the pandemic. After import levels stabilized, they began to climb again opposite to the trend seen since 2006.

On the export side, we saw a dip in crude oil exports starting with the pandemic with levels that were about the same and even going down. At first glance it would seem the U.S. is stockpiling its crude oil since import levels have started to rise and export levels stopping increasing and remained the same. However, looking at the Department of Energy crude oil total inventory data we see a decrease in crude oil reserves. At the same time there is a large spike in crude oil demand for U.S. consumers. This suggests the change in import and export trends can be attributed to the large spike in demand immediately after the pandemic.


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