Reversing a five-year-long decline trend, U.S. gross crude imports rose by 7 percent, or by 528,000 barrels per day, in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year, with imports from OPEC producers increasing the most, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday.
This was the first increase since 2010, and imports between 2010 and 2015 had been decreasing as a result of increasing U.S. production, the EIA noted.
Between January and June of this year, imports from Nigeria, Iraq, and other OPEC members rose by 504,000 bpd. Imports from Mexico dropped by 118,000 bpd, and offset the higher imports from Canada, which resulted in a non-OPEC imports rise of just below 24,000 bpd.
U.S.-wide, imports from Nigeria, Iraq, and Canada contributed the most to the higher imports, the EIA said.
The reasons for the increased imports are to be sought in the narrowing differences between some U.S. crudes and international benchmarks, which have led to a cost advantage of imported crudes over some domestic crudes. Furthermore, the low global oil prices resulted in lower U.S. oil production, which dropped from an average of 9.5 million bpd in the first half of 2015 to 9.0 million bpd in the first half this year, the EIA said.
In addition, the oil tanker glut has dragged shipping rates down to almost all-time lows, allowing some light-sweet African oil to be more competitive than shipments from the Bakken to some U.S. areas.
In terms of Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts, the East Coast saw its imports rising the most, by 244,000 bpd, or 41 percent, compared to the first half last year. All other regions, with the exception of the Rocky Mountain region, increased their imports.
Signs that the U.S. crude imports are on the rise emerged earlier this year, when they increased to 7.8 mb/d from 7.3 mb/d in 2015, which was the lowest level of imports in at least two decades.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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