RBN Energy: US distillate exports from gulf coast to Latin America on the rise.
U.S. exports of diesel and other distillates averaged 1.2 million barrels/day (MMb/d) in 2016, more than eight times their 2005 level and up slightly from 2015, another in a series of record-busting years for distillate exports. So far, 2017 looks like another winner. This year, though, a lot more distillate is being shipped south from Gulf Coast marine terminals to nearby Central America and South America, and less is being floated across the Atlantic to Western Europe. Today we consider recent trends in U.S. distillate exports and the significance of the export market to U.S. refiners.
Way back in the 1970s—literally a lifetime ago for many RBN blog readers—U.S. exports of diesel and other distillates averaged less than 3 Mb/d. That’s no typo; daily distillate exports on a typical day back in the Disco Era were less than 3,000 barrels. Today, in the Shale Era, that many barrels of distillate are being exported from U.S. marine terminals every three and a half minutes or so. (We did the math—2016 distillate exports averaged 1.2 MMb/d; divide that by 24 (hours in a day), then by 60 (minutes in an hour) and you get 826 barrels/minute.) It goes without saying, then, that distillate exports play a key role in the profitability of U.S. refineries, especially (as we’ll get to) those along the Gulf Coast, the send-off point for the vast majority of U.S. refined products shipped overseas. The same is true for gasoline exports.