Exports of propane from the United States have been increasing rapidly since 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
In April 2015, propane exports averaged 636,000 barrels per day (bpd), which is 222,000 bpd above last year’s levels. U.S. propane production and exports were 190,000 bpd and 201,000 bpd higher, respectively, in the first four months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.
Several projects building new export facilities and expanding existing export terminals have increased waterborne export capacity by 400,000 bpd between April 2014 and April 2015, with two more projects planned for completion by the end of the year, EIA reports.
The United States became a net exporter of propane in 2010, as growing production supplied additional exports, mainly out of the Gulf Coast. Between 2011 and 2014, annual propane production increased by 376,000 bpd, while net exports increased by 292,000 bpd. Most of the production growth resulted from increased natural gas plant production associated with expanding shale gas and tight oil development, while refinery propane production remained relatively constant, EIA notes.
Between April and October 2014, EIA reports that combined exports of propane and butane exceeded the nameplate capacity of terminals designed to export either of the two products. Three expansions increased propane and butane terminal capacity to 863,000 bpd: a 120,000 bpd expansion of Targa’s terminal at Galena Park, Texas, in late 2014; the opening of Sunoco’s 200,000 bpd Nederland, Texas, terminal in January 2015; and Enterprise’s 50,000 bpd expansion at its Channelview, Texas, facility in early 2015.
Two more large terminal expansions are expected by the end of the year. Occidental will add 75,000 bpd of capacity at its Corpus Christi, Texas, facility in the third quarter, and Enterprise plans to increase its capacity at its Channelview facility by 227,000 bpd in the fourth quarter. These terminal expansions, new ship constructions and the expansion of the Panama Canal, scheduled for the first half of 2016, will facilitate the flow of U.S. propane to international markets.