Producers and traders shipped out 1.21 million barrels of crude a day from the U.S. in the week that ended February 17, the most in Energy Information Administration data going back to 1993. Domestic output increased to 9 million barrels per day last week, the fastest pace since April, while U.S. refiners used the least crude since October 2015.
Shale output has surged and tankers loaded in the Middle East during the last days of all-out production by OPEC nations arrived this month in the U.S., swelling stockpiles to a record. Prices for West Texas Intermediate crude have averaged $2.24 a barrel below global marker Brent this year, making U.S. oil more attractive to refiners around the world.
Local refiners are using as much domestic crude as they can and the remaining incremental production is being exported, Gary Morgan, director for Clarksons Platou Shipping Services USA LLC’s analyst group, said by phone from Houston. “Going forward, most of the increasing production will be for exports. As output moves from 9 million barrels a day to 9.3 million or 9.4 million, three-quarters of that increased output will be for export.”
For now, U.S. crude is looking especially attractive to buyers in Asia. WTI has averaged 22 cents below Dubai, a lower-quality grade that’s the benchmark for Asia, this year, based on front-month swaps data from broker PVM Oil Associates Ltd.. That compares to a $3.76 premium a year ago.
Most of the incremental volumes from last week were destined for the Far East, Court Smith, director of research with shipbrokers MJLF & Associates, said by instant message from Stamford, Connecticut. “The Far East will remain the main destination for U.S. crude exports in the short-term, assuming there are no big swings in price spreads.”