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U.S. Lifted The Crude Oil Export Ban, And Exports Went… Down


Just over three months after the authorities lifted the four-decade ban on crude oil exports, the U.S. has actually exported less this year than it did over the same period the year before, when the ban was still in place.

According to Clipper Data market intelligence cited by the Financial Times, we’ve seen a 5 percent decline in U.S. crude oil export volumes since the beginning of this year. The data suggests that on average we are exporting (waterborne) 325,000 barrels per day now, compared to 342,000 barrels per day during the first months of 2015.

And there’s no official data yet—not since the beginning of this year, when the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) noted that during the week ending 22 January, the U.S. had exported just shy of 400,000 barrels of oil, which again was 25 percent less than what was exported for the same week in 2014.

An oil tanker that reached a French port in January was the first post-ban delivery of U.S. crude oil, but things haven’t really picked up pace since then.

January’s cargoes, totaling about 11.3 million barrels, marked a 7 percent decline from U.S. crude exports in December, according to data by the U.S. Census Bureau. Shipments during January went to Curacao and France, in addition to Canada, the primary destination. The total number of tankers that have set sail with U.S. crude oil will not be known until comprehensive data on February’s shipments is released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The immediate beneficiaries of the ban suspension are gas and oil companies such as Chevron and Exxon Mobil—among the most tireless lobbyers against the ban—and oil trading giants such as Vitol Group BV and Trafigura Ltd Pet.

Europe and Asia are flooded with oil from Russia and the Middle East, though the first two shipments to leave the U.S. post-export ban went to Europe: one to Germany and the other to France, to be used in a refinery in Switzerland. Dutch media outlets reported in January that a tanker from Houston had reached Rotterdam port, but this remains just a drop in the global export bucket.

In Asia, even China’s state-run Sinopec—the world’s second-largest refiner—has imported a consignment of U.S. oil, according to a Reuters source. Japan’s Cosmo Oil was the first Asian buyer of U.S. oil, purchasing some 300,000 barrels of U.S. crude in mid-January, which will be delivered to its refineries in mid-April.

The very first South American country that will import U.S. crude oil is Venezuela. In early February, Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA imported a 550,000-barrel cargo of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) through its U.S.-based Citgo Petroleum affiliate. Venezuela started importing foreign crudes in 2014 amid a fall in its own production – buying mostly Angolan and Nigerian light grades.

WTI is also expected to be exported to Israel, where Swiss commodities house Trafigura will ship some 700,000 barrels. Atlantic Trading & Marketing, the U.S. trading unit of French Total SA, has been planning an export cargo of U.S. crude from Cushing.

Also, earlier this month, Exxon became the first U.S. oil company to export U.S. crude, sending a tanker from Texas to a refinery it owns in Italy.

However, storage is now at the highest level in at least a decade. U.S., crude storage levels hit 487 million barrels in early November, closing in on the 80-year high of 518 million barrels in the last week of February. According to the EIA, about 60 percent of the U.S. working storage capacity is filled.

Globally, the picture isn’t much better, with the International Energy Agency (IEA) saying that 1 billion barrels were added to storage in 2015 alone. OPEC has reported that crude oil stockpiles in OECD countries currently exceed the running five-year average by 210 million barrels.

19 Comments on "U.S. Lifted The Crude Oil Export Ban, And Exports Went… Down"

  1. HARM on Mon, 28th Mar 2016 7:42 pm 

    All of this (massive global glut, falling prices) of course supports the contention that we are now at (or past) Peak Oil, of course.

    Wait… what?

  2. HARM on Mon, 28th Mar 2016 7:43 pm 

    As George Monbiot famously said, “We were wrong on peak oil. There’s enough to fry us all”.

  3. makati1 on Mon, 28th Mar 2016 8:28 pm 

    When there is more of anything than consumers can afford to consume, prices will go down and production will go down and ability to consume will go down and prices will go down and production will … end. Oil is not exempt.

    Pass the popcorn.

  4. HARM on Mon, 28th Mar 2016 8:32 pm 

    Except that production is still going up, globally as well as in the U.S., where we have reached or exceeded our previous 1971 peak:

  5. HARM on Mon, 28th Mar 2016 8:37 pm 

    And for the record, I am not celebrating the fact that the Technology Genie has pushed our day of reckoning out for a generation or more. It will make the decimation of other species that much worse, and eventually lead to an even more horrendous population overshoot scenario.

    Nonetheless, I cannot escape the obvious realization that I, like many others, was gravely wrong about a peak either coming soon or being in the rear-view mirror. I’m only in my 40s but may not even live to see it.

  6. makati1 on Mon, 28th Mar 2016 9:51 pm 

    “Production is still going up.” Really? Prove you assertion with a CREDITABLE reference. Counting barrels of burnable liquids is not proving your point. NET energy is going down. Has been and always will. “Barrels” is a red herring used to distract the sheeple from reality.

    BTW: AEI is NOT a crediable source of info.

  7. Truth Has A Liberal Bias on Mon, 28th Mar 2016 9:59 pm 

    US imports of crude are increasing. The only thing US has to export is condensate. Nobody wants condensate. That’s why storage is full of condensate. If there was crude in storage then US refineries wouldn’t have to import more crude.

  8. HARM on Mon, 28th Mar 2016 10:44 pm 


    If you don’t like the AEI, how about the U.S. Department of Energy, which shows the exact same figures:

  9. HARM on Mon, 28th Mar 2016 10:51 pm 

    Seriously, guys, it sucks to be wrong –take it from me. But at some point you have to man up and admit it, or you’re no better than the paid wh0res on the MSM.

    Face it: we badly underestimated the ability of the TPTB to kick the can and reprogram the matrix. This sucker’s not only NOT going down, it’s more lucrative than ever for the 0.01%. Meanwhile, the masses are so brainwashed into believing (a) they are all going to be rich, and (b) unfettered capitalism is the bestest system ever, there is almost zero chance of a mass uprising (especially in the U.S>). And if there is one, it’s more likely than not to take the form of a hard-right fascist regime vs. a populist/socialist revolution.

  10. twocats on Tue, 29th Mar 2016 2:20 am 


    I think you are underselling it just a bit. Think about what has occurred since we began approaching conventional peak (the 2002 period onward) to conventional peak in 2005-2006.

    1) Housing Bubble implosion – (entirely coincidence?)

    2) Great Recession

    3) highest oil (and US gas prices) for multiple consecutive years

    4) tremendous ass-raping of the planet to get at the last little drops (tar sands visible from space – yeah, we dig rocks good!)

    5) venturing into the arctic for last little drops (thank goodness its melting)

    Those are some of the major events that are at least somewhat tied to the reality of peak oil. If you are in your 40’s and planning on living even remotely to your life expectancy (assuming you are an American male), you can be sure that even this new Matrix (post 2009) will not survive past 2025, and fairly likely not beyond 2020.

    Will it be the utter collapse discussed often by Mak et al? Eh, maybe not, but the new new matrix will be grim even by 2009 standards.

    the system is straining even as we speak under the very real threat of a collapsing energy complex, and the financial institutions supporting them. Will the system be able to adjust and navigate out of it? I’d probably give you better than 68% odds. But I wouldn’t give you above 95%.

  11. Anonymous on Tue, 29th Mar 2016 4:34 am 

    Americants have to be the dumbest people on earth, really. It is physically IMPOSSIBLE for the empire to ‘export’ crude oil. They are net-IMPORTER, and have been since what? The 1950s? They always will be a net-importer right up to the point the uS empire implodes. But writers all appear to be grade-A morons anyhow so, no suprise I guess.

  12. rockman on Tue, 29th Mar 2016 6:58 am 

    Interesting comments. Mostly because I didn’t notice one that points out the obvious poor quality of this reporting. They repeated use therm “oil export ban” while at the same time they show SOME of the data indicating there wasn’t a ban. The really important stat they neglect is that the US has exported way over 1 BILLION BBLS OF OIL since the “ban” was signed into law. In fact the year after the “ban” became law the US exported more oil than the year before the “ban” existed. It takes less than 15 seconds to search for the FACTS that completely destroy the MYTH of a US oil export “ban”. Here, I’ve saved y’all 15 seconds of your life:

    You’re welcome. LOL

    And yes: the US has been a net oil importer for decades. So what? US oil has always been traded in the free market. It has always gone to the highest bidder. Except, of course, for oil produced from govt leases. And also understand that about 1 BILLION BBLS OF US OIL is refined with all those products exported overseas. IOW the US is a huge NET REFINED PRODUCT EXPORTER.

    “US imports of crude are increasing. The only thing US has to export is condensate. Nobody wants condensate.” And another MYTH as incorrect as the “ban” myth. LOL. The US was exporting was exporting over 100 million bbls/yr back when oil prices were high. One big demand was from the Canadian oil sands producers. They had to have more than 300,000 BBLS PER DAY of our light oil in order to pipeline their heavy crap. Search “dilbit” for details. And before the shale boom US refiners had to IMPORT CONDENSATE to blend with our heavy oil imports. So one more time: US refiners ARE NOT designed to optimally crack heavy crude. They want a BLEND of oils in the 31 to 33 API range to max yields. In fact this year Venezuela had to IMPORT light oil from Libya to blend with their heavy crap. And got it from them because there was enough extra available from the US.

    The Canadian would lose over 300 MILLION BBLS OF EXPORT PER YEAR without the import of US light oil. The Canadians have also shipped tens of millions of bbls of light Eagle Ford oil to their east coast refineries to blend with their heavy oil imports. So not only were they paying high prices a few years ago but they also had to pay shipping costs. IOW they were paying a PREMIUM for that condensate “nobody wanted”. LOL. US refineries would have to still be importing condensate if it weren’t for the shale boom. And guess why foreign refineries are paying a PREMIUM for US condensate today? That’s right: for their refineries to blend with their increasingly crappy heavy oil imports.

    And tomorrow we’ll debunk some other myths like Big Foot and honest politicians. LOL.

  13. makati1 on Tue, 29th Mar 2016 7:10 am 

    HARM, the same figures come from the same source, the government. NO Government numbers are real or should be taken as facts to back up assertions.

  14. joe on Tue, 29th Mar 2016 8:53 am 

    Yeah, this is econ 101. Condensate is the spit of a tight oil play. As high cost oil vanishes, so does its little brother, condensate oil for export.

  15. geopressure on Tue, 29th Mar 2016 9:04 am 

    This proves that it was NOT the US OIL & GAS Industry who paid 10’s of Millions of U$D to the Lobbyist who were able to convince the Republicans to draw a line in the sand & say “No Lifting of Ban, No deal”…

    So who paid the Lobbyists???

    If you said the democrats then you are correct!!! The Republicans will take 100% of the blame whenever the price spike gets here in a few months…

    Obama is about to “fake” overflow the Commercial Storage tanks in Cushing to hold prices down… Then he will “fake” Export that oil so the price spike can be blamed on the Republicans…

  16. rockman on Tue, 29th Mar 2016 11:07 am 

    Geo – It seems to beg the question: why would anyone pay a single $ to lift a “ban” on exporting US oil that has never existed. That would be like paying a lobbyist to push for the right to buy fried chicken. I doubt the C. Sanders would contribute to the cause. LOL.

  17. rockman on Tue, 29th Mar 2016 1:08 pm 

    Joe – “As high cost oil vanishes, so does its little brother, condensate oil for export.” So true. It will decline slowly but it will decline. And as it does the Canadians, who currently require about 1 BUILLION BBLS OF US CONDENSATE to export much of the oil sands production, will have to look elsewhere. Likewise Gulf Coast refineries will once again have to import millions of bbls of condensate from overseas to blend with their heavy oi imports.

    Us condensate…you’ll be missed by many. LOL.

  18. HARM on Tue, 29th Mar 2016 1:52 pm 


    I hear you and until recently believed we might actually be entering the Age of Consequences JHK keeps talking about.

    Things got pretty dark in 2008-2010 timeframe, but… consider what has happened *since* then.

    1) Housing Bubble implosion –
    – Completely erased from bank balance sheets and the public’s memory. Prices now as high -or higher than the last bubble peak and still rising.

    2) Great Recession –
    – A distant memory for all but the least fortunate (who we routinely marginalize and ignore anyway). The .01% have never been richer, and the stock markets are reaching new highs.

    3) highest oil (and US gas prices) –
    – Also a distant memory. Prices now in the $30-40 BBL range, lots of unsold inventory (glut).

    4) tremendous ass-raping of the planet to get at the last little drops (tar sands visible from space –
    – This has never been a problem for easily 95% of the public.

    5) venturing into the arctic for last little drops (thank goodness its melting)
    – Ditto

    I must admit that I amazed at how skillful and powerful the global puppeteering elite has become at manipulating the economy and the hoi polloi. They are so skilled at kicking that can, I am no longer convinced I will live to see the Limits to Growth manifest themselves in my lifetime.

  19. practicalMaina on Tue, 29th Mar 2016 2:03 pm 

    HARM, you should take a tour of Detroit, prices fully recovered? Rent definitely has but you can still get property for a song anywhere that used to have good manufacturing. I think you could get into a half constructed North Dakota house for a about 10 cases of beer, or maybe a big bag of meth. In the important areas where appearances must be kept, things will be made to look the same, (with the exception of more well armed cops.)

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