Crude Imports Fall Below 7 Million for 2nd Time in 14 Years

Jan 15, 2014 3:38 pm ET

(Updates with settlement prices in 10th paragraph.)

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. crude-oil imports dropped below 7 million barrels a day for the second time in 14 years as domestic output grew and cold weather hampered shipments, the Energy Information Administration said.

Purchases from abroad dropped 1.07 million barrels a day to 6.89 million in the week ended Jan. 10, the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm, said today in a weekly report. They reached 6.86 million on Dec. 6, the lowest level since January 2000. The 10-year average is 9.35 million. The record high for a week is 11.3 million in July 2004.

Domestic production increased to the most in more than 25 years last week as fracking and horizontal drilling boosted output from shale formations, including Bakken in North Dakota and Eagle Ford in Texas. Imports fell 51 percent in the East Coast as temperatures dropped to record lows.

“It almost looks like every barrel that we are producing domestically, we are importing less,” said Rob Merriam, a Washington-based EIA analyst who helps produce the weekly report. “The cold weather certainly has something to do in slowing down some imports coming into the East Coast.”

Imports to the East Coast fell to 435,000 barrels a day from 879,000 the prior week, the EIA reported. Shipments to the Gulf Coast decreased 11 percent to 3.09 million, the least since September 2008.

25-Year High

The weekly statistics are volatile, Merriam said. Last week’s drop followed a 6.2 percent increase in the week ended Jan. 3, EIA data showed. The four-week average fell 2.7 percent to 7.47 million barrels a day, after reaching 7.41 million in the period ended Dec. 27, the lowest level in almost 16 years.

Domestic production climbed to 8.16 million barrels a day last week, the highest level since July 1988. Output surpassed imports in October for the first time since 1995, the EIA said.

Production will average 8.54 million barrels a day this year, up 14 percent from last year’s 7.5 million, and will reach 9.29 million next year, the most since 1972, the EIA said on Jan. 7 in a monthly report.

Imports will account for 24 percent of total U.S. liquid fuel consumption in 2015, the lowest level since 1970. That’s down from 33 percent in 2013 and 60 percent in 2005.

West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark, rose $1.58, or 1.7 percent, to $94.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent futures climbed 74 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $107.13 on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark grade was at a premium of $12.96 to WTI. The gap has been above $10 since Nov. 7.

“The Brent-WTI spread has been so wide for so long and foreign crude is better off to go somewhere else,” said Tom Finlon, Jupiter, Florida-based director of Energy Analytics Group LLC. “We have increasing supplies of domestic crude.”

--Editors: Richard Stubbe, Dan Stets