EIA: US propane exports to Europe, Asia increase

November 3, 2015 By    

With increased propane production and flat domestic demand for propane, the United States has transitioned from being a net propane importer to a net propane exporter in the past few years, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The EIA says the increase in U.S. propane exports have changed traditional propane trade patterns across the world. The initial growth in U.S. propane production from between 2008 and 2010 led to a reduction in dependence on propane imports, with net imports falling from an average of 109,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2008 to a near-balance of 16,000 bpd in 2010.

According to EIA, U.S. exports of propane initially reached markets in Mexico, the Caribbean and South America, doubling between 2010 and 2013 from 88,000 bpd to 198,000 bpd. By the latter half of 2013, substantial qualities of U.S. propane exports were being sent to the European market, helping to offset declines in European propane production. U.S. propane exports to Europe have increased from 25,000 bpd in 2012 to nearly 100,000 bpd in 2015. U.S. propane exports are now competing with Europe’s traditional propane import sources, including Russia, North Africa and the Middle East.

Most recently, U.S. propane is increasingly being exported to Asia, EIA says. U.S. propane exports to Asia nearly tripled in 2015 from 65,000 bpd in the first eight months of 2014 to 189,000 bpd in the same months of 2015. Traditionally, the Middle East and local refineries and natural gas plant production supplied Asia with propane. However, the fastest-growing segment of the propane demand in Asia is the petrochemical sector, with significant growth in propane dehydrogenation. If current pricing trends continue, growing petrochemical demand will be the primary market for further increases in U.S. propane exports, particularly in Asia, EIA reports.

Despite the increased exports, U.S. remains well supplied with propane in comparison to the situation it faced during the winter of 2013-14 when there were difficulties in supplying the Midwest, EIA says. Since then, domestic propane production has increased and total U.S. propane inventories reached the highest levels on record.

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