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U.S. Oil & Gas Exports Hit All-Time High

offshore rig

U.S. energy exports rose to record levels last year, with both petroleum and natural gas posting record-highs as the shale boom and the second full year of no restrictions on crude oil exports boosted overseas shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and oil.

According to the latest Monthly Energy Review by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), total petroleum exports—crude oil and petroleum products—jumped to average 6.343 million bpd in 2017 from 5.261 million bpd in 2016. Of these, crude oil exports surged to average 1.1 million bpd last year, from 591,000 bpd in 2016.

Booming U.S. production, expanding pipeline and export capacity, and the more than $3-a-barrel discount of WTI spot prices to Brent supported the surge in U.S. oil exports last year, which was the second full year since the restrictions on U.S. crude oil exports were removed in late 2015.

In natural gas trade, total U.S. natural gas exports also increased to the highest on record, and exports in terms of billions of cubic feet exceeded total natural gas imports for the first time.

The U.S. energy trade deficit last year narrowed to the lowest since 1998, EIA data showed.

U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) quadrupled last year compared to 2016, and the U.S. is expected to become the world’s third-biggest LNG exporter by 2020, the EIA said on Tuesday.

Related: OPEC Scrambles To Justify Output Cuts

More than half of all U.S. LNG exports in 2017 went to three destinations—Mexico, South Korea, and China.

Mexico’s demand for natural gas is growing, while it has delayed some pipeline construction, while LNG exports to Asia were driven by widening difference between the Henry Hub natural gas price—to which U.S. LNG contract prices are indexed—and crude oil—to which LNG prices are benchmarked in Asia.

U.S. LNG exports to China—which took 15 percent of all American LNG cargoes— were sold mostly on a spot basis, and volumes in the winter increased as China scrambled to secure gas supplies as part of its push to switch from coal to natural gas.

Since 2016, two LNG projects--Sabine Pass in Louisiana and Cove Point in Maryland—have come online and four other projects are expected to come online in the next two years.

“As export capacity continues to increase, the United States is projected to become the third-largest LNG exporter in the world by 2020, surpassing Malaysia and remaining behind only Australia and Qatar,” the EIA said.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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