For the first time in over sixty years, the United States is a net exporter of oil-products:
The U.S. exported more gasoline, diesel and other fuels than it imported in 2011 for the first time since 1949, the Energy Department said today.
Shipments abroad of petroleum products exceeded imports by 439,000 barrels a day, the department said in the Petroleum Supply Monthly report. In 2010, daily net imports averaged 269,000 barrels. U.S. refiners exported record amounts of gasoline, heating oil and diesel to meet higher global fuel demand while U.S. fuel consumption sank. […]
Distillate shipments rose 30 percent from a year earlier to a record 854,000 barrels a day, and daily exports of finished gasoline and blending components jumped 57 percent to 526,000 barrels in 2011.
In December, the U.S. had an average net export of 1.25 million barrels per day
However, the U.S. refined oil boom could slow down as a St. Croix refinery owned by Hess is shuttered and fires broke out at BP's Cherry Point, Tesoro's Salt Lake, and North Atlantic Refining's Newfoundland refineries, causing production to halt for weeks or months due to maintenance.
Prices of ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel -- already at record highs for this time of year -- could spike higher if Sunoco Inc. goes ahead with plans to shut its 335,000-barrels-a-day Philadelphia refinery in July if no buyer is found, U.S. government forecasters warned in a report Monday.An additional complicating factor is that if the plant were to be converted to a storage terminal it might not be able to accept ships from the Gulf Coast due to the Jones Act:
The plant made up 24% of the refining capacity on the densely populated East Coast as of August, the Energy Information Administration said. Since September, ConocoPhillips shut its 185,000-barrels-a-day Trainer, Pa., refinery and Sunoco shuttered its 178,000-barrels-a-day Marcus Hook, Pa., refinery. Those refineries, plus the Sunoco Philadelphia plant, make up 50% of East Coast refining capacity.
The 1920 Jones Act requires that all commercial shipping between U.S. ports must be performed by U.S. flag vessels constructed in the U.S., wholly owned by U.S. citizens and crewed by U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Penalties are steep for non-compliance. EIA said just 56 tankers met the requirement at the end of 2010, less than 1% of the world tanker fleet in total number and on a tonnage basis. About 35 Jones Act tankers are in use at any given time, EIA said. The costs of using Jones Act ships seem to run two-to-three times foreign flag ship rates," the EIA said.
"In the absence of domestic tanker constraints, Northeast suppliers probably would find it more economic to purchase ULSD from the Gulf Coast than to bid it away from Europe," the EIA said. But because of low availability of Jones Act ships, ULSD buyers would bid the fuel away from European purchasers, paying market prices that are 5-15 cents a gallon higher, as well as transportation cost of that averaged 5 to 9 cents a gallon in 2011.