The EIA has said that in recent years, higher domestic production of light, tight crude oil has led to a reduction in crude oil imports. Certain types of crude oil have been affected more than others. As an example, the increased economic availability of domestic light, tight crude oil has virtually eliminated Gulf Coast imports of light crude oil. In the past year, Gulf Coast imports of medium crude oil have also fallen due to increased production from the Eagle Ford, Bakken and Permian regions.
Density is one of the key characteristics of crude oil and is measured by API gravity as established by the American Petroleum Institute. Less dense liquids have higher API gravities. Crude oils with API gravities of 35 or above are considered light; 27 – 34 are medium; less than 27 are heavy.
From Q1 of last year to Q1 of this year, medium grade crude oil imports to Gulf Coast refineries fell 45%, from 1.5 million bpd to 0.8 million bpd. On the other hand, over that same period there was 0.4 million bpd increase in imports to Gulf Coast refineries of heavy crude oil. Improved refining margins from processing additional volumes of heavy crude have resulted in a 3% increase in gross atmospheric distillation unit (ADU) throughput in the Gulf Coast region over this period, from 8 million – 8.2 million bpd.
Almost all medium grade crude oil imports are from Middle Eastern countries. Gulf Coast imports of medium crude oil from Saudi Arabia decreased by 52% from the first quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of this year, from 0.9 million bpd to 0.4 million bpd. Similarly, Gulf Coast imports of medium crude oil from Kuwait fell by 46% over this period, from 0.4 million bpd to 0.2 million bpd.
Edited from press release by Claira Lloyd