During first-half 2023, US exports of petroleum products grew 2% compared with the same period in 2022, reaching nearly 6 million b/d, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). This represents the highest first-half-of-the-year exports in EIA’s Petroleum Supply Monthly data, which date back to 1981.
According to EIA, the primary drivers behind this growth were the exports of propane and other hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGLs), while exports of other major petroleum products like motor gasoline, distillate fuel oil, and jet fuel all declined in comparison to first-half 2022.
Export growth rate during first-half 2023, however, was lower than the growth during the same period in 2022. In first-half 2022, exports had surged to meet heightened demand in Europe after the region implemented measures to reduce its imports from Russia.
Additionally, US exports of crude oil continued their upward trajectory in first-half 2023, reaching 4 million b/d, a 19% increase compared to first-half 2022.
US propane exports averaged 1.5 million b/d in first-half 2023, marking an 8% increase (119,000 b/d) compared with first-half 2022 and playing a pivotal role in driving the exports surge. Propane maintained its status as the most-exported US petroleum product in first-half 2023, a position it’s held since 2020.
US exports of propane and other HGLs to Asia, where they are primarily consumed as feedstock in the petrochemical industry, have grown rapidly in recent years. “These increased exports to Asian markets distinguish propane from other major US refined product exports such as distillate and gasoline, which mostly flow to destinations in the Americas. About 59% of US propane exports went to Asia in first-half 2023, mostly to Japan, China, and South Korea, matching the historical trend of previous years,” EIA said.
Propane exports to destinations in Europe decreased compared with first-half 2022, as did propane exports to destinations in Central and South America.
Other HGL exports were also a significant driver of export growth in first-half 2023, increasing by 9% (85,000 b/d) compared with first-half 2022, according to EIA.
Distillate fuel oil, gasoline exports
In first-half 2023, the US exported 1.1 million b/d of distillate fuel oil, a 5% (51,000 b/d) decline compared with the corresponding period in the previous year. This reduction was primarily driven by lower exports to destinations in Central and South America. Despite this decrease, Central and South America combined retained their status as the largest destination for US distillate, accounting for 57% of such exports. The US also exported less distillate to Canada and the Asia and Oceania region compared with first-half 2022.
Although overall distillate exports saw a decline, there was a notable increase in distillate exports to Europe during first-half 2023 when compared to first-half 2022, following the EU’s complete import ban on Russia’s petroleum products from the beginning of 2023. US distillate fuel oil exports to destinations in Europe averaged 138,000 b/d in first-half 2023 compared with 56,000 b/d in the first-half 2022. Distillate exports to Mexico also increased.
Among individual countries, the largest recipients of US distillate exports were Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, Panama, and Peru. The UK and the Netherlands were the largest destination countries for US distillate exports into Europe.
“The increase in distillate exports to Europe even as exports to other destinations declined partially reflects rerouted trade flows in response to sanctions on petroleum product imports from Russia. Exports to Europe from the US are replacing distillate supplies that previously came from Russia, which now lack market access in Europe and therefore are being exported to destinations further abroad. In particular, Brazil has reportedly been a significant destination for distillate from Russia, while the country’s distillate imports from the US are lower compared with last year,” EIA said.
US exports of gasoline in first-half 2023 were 4% (32,000 b/d) lower than in first-half 2022. Gasoline exports to Mexico, which accounted for 56% of total gasoline exports in the first half of the year, also fell by 4%.
After Mexico, the largest destinations for US gasoline exports so far this year include Guatemala, Canada, Chile, and Peru. Gasoline exports to Central and South America increased in first-half 2023 compared with first-half 2022, while exports to Canada and Europe were both lower than in first-half 2022. At 859,000 b/d, exports of gasoline during first-half 2023 are lower than exports of distillate fuel oil, propane, or other HGLs, EIA data show.