U.S. Oil-Product Exports Exceed 2009 Imports to Drive Ship Surge

U.S. exports of gasoline and other refined oil products last year probably exceeded the nation’s fuel imports from as recently as 2009 as strengthening demand from Latin America spurred a fourfold gain in ship charters.

Refineries’ petroleum-product shipments exceeded imports by an average of 935,000 barrels a day in the first ten months of last year, U.S. Energy Information Administration figures compiled by Bloomberg show. Inbound shipments topped deliveries by 841,000 barrels daily in 2009, according to the data.

U.S. oil-product exports to Venezuela more than doubled in the period, according to the EIA. Latin American and Caribbean economies will expand 3.9 percent this year, almost twice as fast as the U.S., the International Monetary Fund predicted in October. DVB Bank SE said last month rising U.S. shale-gas output would spur shipments of refined products.

“Refineries in the U.S. Gulf now being a competitive exporter to the rest of the world is a theme that’s going to be going on for a multiple of years,” Robert Bugbee, president of Scorpio Tankers Inc., said Jan. 14 by phone. The Monaco-based company has a fleet of 31 product tankers.

The number of tankers chartered last year for single voyages to haul refined products to Central and South America from the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts more than quadrupled from 2009, according to figures from shipbrokers compiled by Bloomberg. Bookings came to 288 in 2012, compared with 64 three years earlier.

Gasoline, Naphtha

The world product-tanker fleet is benefiting from extra business generated through exports from the U.S. of jet fuel and gasoline to West Africa and naphtha to Asia, according to Bugbee. The routes only evolved over the past 12 to 24 months, he said.

U.S. oil-product shipments exceeded inbound cargoes by 368,000 barrels a day in 2011, the first time since 1949 the country was a net exporter, the EIA data show. Total world imports last year came to 18.5 million barrels a day, according to Clarkson Plc, the biggest shipbroker.

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the state-controlled Brazilian oil company known as Petrobras, was the biggest user of product tankers on the U.S.-to-Latin America route last year, the shipbroker data showed, hiring 110 vessels. BP Plc was second with 21 ships. Not all bookings are reported to the market, and charterers were unknown or unreported for 33 voyages last year.

Distillate exports from the U.S. averaged 1 million barrels a day in the first 10 months of 2012, up 21 percent from a year earlier, according to EIA figures. Jet-fuel exports climbed 28 percent to average 124,000 barrels daily. The U.S. delivered more oil products to countries from Argentina to Honduras in the period.

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