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Thu, 08 Feb 2018 12:33 - Updated Thu, 08 Feb 2018 12:33

Texas flood: U.S. oil exports pour into markets worldwide

NEW YORK - In the two years since Washington lifted a 40-year ban on oil exports, tankers filled with U.S. crude have landed in more than 30 countries, ranging from massive economies like China and India to tiny Togo.

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The repeal has unleashed a flood of U.S. shale oil, undercutting global crude prices, eroding the clout of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and seizing market share from many of its member countries.

In 2005, before the shale revolution, the United States had net imports of 12.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude and fuels - compared to just 4 million bpd today.

U.S. producers are making new customers out of some of the world’s biggest oil-importing nations in Asia and Europe, posing a serious competitive threat to the only other countries that produce as much crude: Saudi Arabia and Russia. At home, the export boom has filled pipelines and sparked a surge of investment in new shipping infrastructure on the Gulf Coast.

(For an interactive graphic detailing the global impacts of the U.S. shale revolution.

U.S. producers now export between 1.5 million and 2 million barrels of crude a day, which could rise to about 4 million by 2022. The nation’s output is expected to account for more than 80 percent of global supply growth in the next decade, according to Paris-based International Energy Agency.

Much of the increased flow will go to China, the world’s top importer and, since November, the largest buyer of U.S. crude other than Canada.

Chen Bo, president of Unipec - China’s largest buyer of U.S. crude - told Reuters that the firm expects to double U.S. imports this year to 300,000 bpd as it seeks to expand sales in Asia and find new customers for U.S. exports in other regions, including Europe.

Unipec - the trading arm of Asia’s largest refiner, state-owned Sinopec - is also considering long-term crude supply deals with U.S. pipeline and terminal operators. The firm may also partner with such firms to expand and improve U.S. export infrastructure, Chen said in an interview.

“U.S. crude flowing to Asia is a major trend in global oil trading,” Chen told Reuters.

Separately, China’s state-owned chemical and oil conglomerate Sinochem Group plans to open a trading office in Houston later this year to source U.S. crude for China’s independent refineries, five sources familiar with the plans told Reuters.

Between 2010 and 2017, U.S. oil production rose from 5.5 million barrels a day to 10 million bpd - approaching a record set in 1970 - as shale fields in west Texas and North Dakota lured massive new drilling investments. That brings national production in line with Saudi Arabia and close to top-producer Russia’s 10.9 million barrels a day.

Saudi Arabia cut output last year as part of OPEC’s 2016 deal to reduce supply - after losing a price war with U.S. shale producers that created a global glut.

Most forecasts show U.S. crude output growing about 500,000 to 600,000 barrels per day through the end of 2018, said David Fyfe, chief economist at global commodity trading firm Gunvor Group in Geneva, Switzerland. The U.S. Energy Department is even more optimistic, now expecting growth to rise by 1.2 million bpd - hitting 11 million bpd by year-end.

“The bulk of that growth will likely be exported,” Fyfe said.

U.S. producers are also displacing foreign oil at home.

Total U.S. crude imports have dropped to 7.6 million barrels a day from a peak of 10.6 million bpd in 2006. OPEC’s share has declined from more than half of U.S. imports to about 37 percent as the United States relies more on domestic production and neighboring Canada.

OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Angola have been among the hardest hit. In the second half of 2017, U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia averaged 709,000 bpd, lowest since 1987 and down from a peak of 1.73 million bpd in 2003,REUTERS.

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