US propane export growth continues to accelerate

June 22, 2017 By    
Click to enlarge. Chart courtesy of the Energy Information Administration

Click to enlarge. Chart courtesy of the Energy Information Administration

U.S. crude oil and petroleum product exports more than doubled from 2.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2010 to 5.2 million bpd in 2016, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

While distillate, gasoline, propane and crude oil have all contributed to the increase in exports, the growth rates and market drivers for each product have varied during this period, EIA reports. In particular, propane export growth has accelerated the last few years, contrary to the slowing increases of U.S. exports of distillate, gasoline and crude oil.

However, propane exports differ from other U.S. petroleum exports with regard to where they are shipped. Most U.S. petroleum exports remain in the Western Hemisphere, but many U.S. propane exports go to either China or Japan, EIA says. A reason for this is that propane offers many non-transportation sector end uses, including space heating, cooking and as a petrochemical feedstock.

Regarding crude oil exports, restrictions on exporting domestically produced crude oil were lifted in December 2015. The U.S. exported 520,000 bpd of crude oil by 2016, and it reached 1.1 million bpd of exports by February 2017. Although Canada remains the largest destination for U.S. crude oil exports, its share of U.S. crude oil exports declined from 92 percent in 2015 to 58 percent in 2016, according to EIA.

In addition, U.S. propane inventories increased by 1.8 million barrels to 54.5 million barrels as of June 16, EIA adds. The following regions experienced propane inventory increases:

  • Midwest propane inventories increased by 0.9 million barrels
  • Gulf Coast propane inventories increased by 0.5 million barrels
  • East Coast propane inventories increased by 0.4 million barrels
  • Rocky Mountain and West Coast propane inventories increased by 0.1 million barrels

Yet even with these increases, inventory levels are still 25 million barrels below levels from one year ago. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories also represented 5.1 percent of total propane inventories, EIA says.

About the Author:

Megan Smalley was an associate editor at LP Gas magazine.

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