U.S. exports of crude oil, LNG, NGLs and refined products have moved into the spotlight on the world stage. Within the past few years, global markets have come to rely on U.S.-sourced hydrocarbons to meet critical needs for energy supplies. But export volume growth has slowed. Demand in the U.S. is ramping up, leaving less available for shipment overseas. And some members of Congress are encouraging the Biden administration to curtail or even ban some exports. What’s next for U.S. hydrocarbon sales to international markets? Will U.S. exports be there to challenge Russia’s use of oil and gas as political weapons? Or could market, logistical and political forces disrupt the flows that are meeting energy needs of the world? Today, we preview the deep dive into these issues on the agenda at RBN’s upcoming xPortCon conference.
Over the past decade, the Shale Revolution vaulted the U.S. into the role of a major exporter of crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas and NGLs. And the world came to depend on those exports to balance the global supply/demand equation. Then a combination of COVID, producer discipline and infrastructure capacity constraints slowed the growth of those supplies just as demand for U.S. exports was skyrocketing due to the combined impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the West’s sanctions on Russia and a steadily progressing pandemic recovery.
Figure 1 details what has happened to U.S. energy exports in recent years. Crude oil exports (red bar chart to left) soared from 0.5 MMb/d in 2015 (before the crude oil export ban to countries other than Canada was lifted) to 3.0 MMb/d in 2019, but then growth ground to a halt. As shown in the dashed gray box in that chart, crude exports have stayed within a narrow range ever since, mostly due to the COVID-induced production decline and ongoing producer discipline constraints.
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