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Can The U.S. Replace Russian Oil Imports?

  • Russia is one of the world’s largest oil producers, making it a vital piece of the global energy mix.
  • Sanctions on Russia could have a significant impact on the U.S. energy market.
  • Replacing Russian oil will prove to be a major challenge and likely result in higher oil prices. 

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, one of the issues being discussed a lot in the West is what an ongoing military conflict may do to oil prices. Russia is one of the world’s largest oil producers. According to the 2021 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, in 2020 Russia produced 10.1 million barrels per day (BPD) of crude oil and natural gas condensate. That was good for second place behind the U.S. at 11.3 million BPD. Saudi Arabia was third at 9.3 million BPD.

However, the U.S. also consumes far more oil (17.2 million BPD) than Russia (3.2 million BPD) or Saudi Arabia (3.5 million BPD). The net result is that the U.S. is a net importer of crude oil, while Russia and Saudi Arabia are major crude oil exporters.

This also means that the U.S. economy is more vulnerable to oil price shocks, while higher oil prices are a net benefit to Russia and Saudi Arabia. Various talking heads have suggested that there we may end up with a $5-$20 premium on oil prices over the invasion.

Related: Don't Count On OPEC To Bring Oil Prices Down

Although Ukraine produces some oil and natural gas, the primary concerns are 1). Ukraine is an important transit location for oil and gas, and 2). Russian sanctions will potentially reduce the available oil supply in a tight market. If Russia could still sell all the oil it could produce to countries that refuse to abide by the sanctions, it might do well financially with an oil price spike.

But that leads to the question of how sanctions on Russia might impact the U.S. market. As of late 2021, the U.S. was importing 8.5 million BPD of crude oil from all countries (Source). Canada was our top supplier, sending the U.S. 4.5 million BPD. (Having secure oil supplies from close allies highlights why the Keystone XL Pipeline expansion was important). Mexico was second, at 700,000 BPD, and then Russia at 595,000 BPD. Saudi Arabia was our 4th largest supplier at 555,000 BPD.

Thus, Russia supplied 7% of U.S. crude oil imports in late 2021 – a significant number. Replacing that oil will put additional upward pressure on global oil prices. The oil markets are about to get very interesting.

By Robert Rapier


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  • Mamdouh Salameh on February 28 2022 said:
    The reason the United States and the European Union (EU) didn’t sanction Russian oil and gas exports is that the sanctions will harm the economies of those imposing them particularly that the United States is the world’s second largest importer of crude oil and the EU depends on Russian gas supplies for more than 40% of its needs and 30% of oil.

    Moreover, the entire LNG exports of the United States, Qatar and Australia could barely replace Russian piped gas supplies of 200 billion cubic metres annually (bcm/y) and 15-16 million tons of LNG. The EU’s LNG import capacity infrastructure is very limited. Furthermore, Russian piped gas is far cheaper than LNG. Above all, Russia can sell its entire gas and oil exports to China.

    And while the United States can easily replace the 595,000 barrels a day (b/d) it imports from Russia, the US economy is very vulnerable to oil price shocks.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • DoRight Deikins on February 28 2022 said:
    It's not the crude that is so important, but the refined products on which the Northeast (USA) depends. The other parts of the US can refine their imports, but the clean, green NE has to depend on refined product imports (non-US imports due to the Jones Act). Of course, they could go without; that should make the vocal majority quite pleased.

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