U.S. crude oil exports hit a record high in 2022 as releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) nearly matched the increase in domestic output to boost U.S. supply to countries looking to replace Russian crude.
Exports of U.S. crude rose by 22% from 2021 to reach a peak of 3.6 million barrels per day (bpd) last year, as greater demand from Europe offset lower exports to India and China, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday.
U.S. production in 2022 rose by 629,000 bpd, or 5.6%, to 11.9 million bpd, still off its record high of 12.3 million bpd reached in 2019.
However, combined with 607,000 bpd of releases from the SPR last year, overall U.S. crude oil supplied to the market reached 12.5 million bpd, surpassing the 12.4 million bpd supplied in 2019.
“In recent years, new U.S. crude oil production has mostly been light, low-sulfur crude oils that U.S. Gulf Coast refineries are not optimized to process,” with these new barrels heading to Asia and Europe instead, the EIA said.
South Korea, the Netherlands, the UK, and Canada were the top destinations for U.S. crude oil, while European buyers ramped up their purchases by 41% from 2021 to substitute Russian supply.
“EU sanctions implemented in December 2022 that prohibit all seaborne imports of Russia’s oil to Europe make it likely that demand for U.S. crude oil will continue in 2023,” the EIA said.
Meanwhile, exports to India and China, which have snapped up cheap Russian oil at a discount, were collectively down 19% on the year, with China also seeing reduced domestic demand.
U.S. crude oil exports that have been boosted by a trade flow reshuffle in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will remain elevated this year as Europe and Asia search for supplies.