U.S. Crude Imports Drop to 17-Year Low as Production Climbs

May 21, 2014 3:42 pm ET

(Updates with comment in fourth paragraph.)

May 21 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. crude imports dropped to a 17- year low last week as the shale boom bolstered output, moving the nation closer to energy independence.

Arrivals slid 658,000 barrels a day to 6.47 million, the least since January 1997, the Energy Information Administration said today. Output rose 6,000 barrels a day to 8.43 million in the seven days ended May 16, the most since October 1986.

The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has unlocked supplies from shale formations in the central U.S., including the Bakken in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas.

“We’re producing more than we import, which was last the case in the 1990s,” said Stephen Schork, president of the Schork Group Inc. in Villanova, Pennsylvania. “As long as we continue to see production increase, the need for imports will decrease. A trend is in place.”

The U.S. met 87 percent of its energy needs in 2013 and 90 percent in December, the most since March 1985, according to the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm. Imports peaked at 11.3 million barrels a day in July 2004.

Crude supplies have fallen in two of the past three weeks after reaching 399.4 million barrels April 25, the most since the EIA began publishing weekly data in 1982.

West Texas Intermediate crude for July delivery rose $1.74, or 1.7 percent, to $104.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was the highest close since April 21.