December could boast another all-time record for U.S. crude oil exports by sea, totaling 13.9 million metric toe and surpassing October’s previous record by nearly one million metric tons. In 2019, 133 million metric tons of US sweet crude oil were exported by sea, a 51% increase from 2018.
Due to the American shale revolution, the country became a net exporter of crude oil by sea in October 2019, and December’s record exports cemented the trend, with imports for the month rising to 11.5 million metric tons of crude oil. BIMCO expects the United States to become a net exporter of marine crude oil on an annual basis for the first time in 2020.
Asia and Europe remained the main import regions for US crude in December, accounting for 38% and 41% respectively. Long-haul travel to Asia, with South Korea being the largest regional importer of US crude, is generating a positive ton-mile boost for the tanker market.
As part of the first phase of the U.S.-China trade deal, China has pledged to purchase an additional $52.4 billion worth of U.S. energy goods, spread over a two-year period. BIMCO expects at least half of the additional energy purchases to be crude oil. The long-haul nature of US-China trade is positive for the tanker segment, but it remains to be seen whether the deal will create new trade or simply serve to divert existing trade flows.