Ever wondered where the United States imports its oil from?
Howmuch.net came out with some infographics to show that from 2000 to 2015. What we would highlight here is the notable shift from the U.S. depending heavily on Middle East countries and Mexico, to depending more on America's neighbor to the north, Canada.
In 2000, the U.S. imported 661 million barrels of oil from Canada, 503 million barrels from Mexico, and a combined 902 million barrels from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.
Here is 2005, which we note Iraq's decline after the U.S. decided to take over...
In 2010, a notable decline in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait occurs, while Canada becomes a much more significant source of oil.
And here is 2015, in which the U.S. imports a whopping 1.37 billion barrels of oil from Canada, while Mexico provides 277 million (a 44.9% decrease from 2000 levels), and Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait combine for just 544.9 million barrels, a 39.6% decrease from levels in 2000.
In seeing this, it's little wonder that OPEC has a keen interest in not cutting supply, as they know full well that lower oil prices will eventually (if not already) take out competition in the U.S. and Canada. Now we can see visually how one of the world's largest importers of oil is shifting its preference, and should help everyone understand OPEC's "totally unpredictable" inability to come to an agreement on oil production cuts.
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The Wall Street Journal has some additional detail on how 2016 is shaping up so far for the U.S.
The U.S. is importing more foreign crude than it has in years, becoming one of the last ports of call for many oil-producing nations despite a glut of crude from domestic companies.
Oil imports this year have surged 20% to about eight million barrels a day since early May 2015, when they approached a 20-year low, according to federal data. Crude from the Republic of Congo, Russia and Brazil is arriving at U.S. ports, while Canada is sending a record amount of oil to the U.S., the data show.
A series of market disruptions in recent months is one reason for the sharp rise in imports, even though U.S. production is close to a three-decade high at nearly nine million barrels a day. These changes include Iran’s return to exporting crude after sanctions were lifted in January, a move that indirectly led to more U.S. imports even though Iran itself can’t sell to the U.S.
Another big driver: The rest of the world is running out of places to store oil. Facilities from Rotterdam to Cape Town already are near capacity, but the U.S. still has room to spare, said Brian Busch, director of oil markets for Genscape, a data firm that tracks energy shipments.
The U.S. has filled about two-thirds of its total storage capacity and has room for roughly 100 million barrels more, Mr. Busch said. By comparison, major storage hubs in China and South Africa appear full, and Europe’s main storage space centered in Rotterdam appears to be within 10% of its usable capacity, according to Mr. Busch.
But with more crude heading to the U.S., the states are moving closer to full storage capacity, too, said Skip York, a vice president with Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultant.
As U.S. tanks fill, “it will eventually have to put some downward pressure on U.S. prices,” Mr. York said. Even before then, the raft of new supply from overseas could weigh on U.S. oil prices.
On Tuesday, oil for June delivery fell $1.13, or 2.5%, to settle at $43.65 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, on expectations that U.S. crude inventories will keep climbing. Crude is up 67% from a 2016 low hit in February but down 28% from a year ago.
Still, rising imports isn’t bad news for everyone in the oil patch. Traders that can afford to hold oil and lock in higher sales through the futures market are big beneficiaries.
Refiners like Phillips 66, major energy companies like BP PLC and international trading houses like Mercuria Energy Group are storing foreign crude in the U.S. so they can sell it for a profit later, according to federal data.
Socking away oil in American storage can cost between 30 cents and 85 cents a barrel each month, which is well below the $1 a barrel or more it takes to keep crude floating in oil tankers, observers said.
“That’s precisely why some of these traders import it, to put it in storage,” said Amrita Sen, co-founder of Energy Aspects, a London consulting firm.
A Wall Street Journal analysis of U.S. Energy Department numbers shows nearly 114 million barrels of foreign oil entered the U.S. between May 2015 and February and went to storage tanks. The majority is parked in Oklahoma and Illinois. That figure is up 30% from less than 88 million barrels in the same period a year earlier.
Meanwhile, wait times to deliver foreign crude into the U.S. have become so backlogged that more than 28 million barrels of oil are sitting idle on tankers in the Gulf of Mexico, according to ship-tracking firm ClipperData. That figure is more than double the normal level, ClipperData said.
Storage space isn’t the only reason for the U.S. import boom. Countries like Venezuela and Iraq are selling oil for low prices just to keep pumping, observers said, and Iran is ramping up exports.
U.S. refiners still are prohibited from buying Iranian oil, but crude from the Persian Gulf country going to other destinations has unleashed a chain reaction that is causing more oil to flow into the U.S.
Iran has been underpricing many of its competitors to win back market share. That means some countries that got cut out of business in Europe and Asia because of lower-priced Iranian crude are selling to the U.S. market, traders and analysts said.
Countries like Angola, Albania and the U.K. recently delivered crude to New Jersey, California and Louisiana after Iran underpriced them, according to oil traders and analysts. These countries haven’t had much U.S. business since the shale revolution until this year, according to ClipperData.
Saudi Arabia also shipped 33% more crude to the U.S. at the start of 2016 than it did during the same period last year, boosting volumes into the country back over one million barrels a day, federal data show, as the kingdom seeks to increase its market share.
Tom Cambridge, chief executive of Cambridge Production Inc. in Amarillo, Texas, said he has been concerned about the increase in imports and the downward pressure that it can exert on U.S. oil prices.
He and a few other oil executives have been trying to drum up support among politicians to push for quotas on foreign oil imports, he said. “If you’re filling up at a station in Texas, chances are you’re running on Saudi gasoline,” Mr. Cambridge said.
Another factor influencing imports: The cost of shipping oil on U.S. trains is more expensive than importing foreign crude, a reflection of low oil prices and shifting transportation costs.
Refineries in Washington state, which often process Alaskan crude, are importing more oil from Argentina and Brazil, according to federal records. New Jersey and Pennsylvania plants are importing from Azerbaijan, Chad and Gabon, crude that competes directly with the Bakken Shale.
“It currently makes more sense to import a tanker of crude from Nigeria than to buy an oil train from North Dakota,” said Stephen Wolfe, senior oil strategist in Houston at Trafigura Beheer BV, a commodities trading firm.