Export Change Means More Tankers May Leave U.S. Carrying Crude

  • Market may develop for shipments out of Gulf Coast ports
  • New export demand seen requiring up to seven Aframax ships

The days of empty oil tankers leaving the Houston Ship Channel are over.

Now that the U.S. has ended crude export restrictions after 40 years, tankers bringing crude oil to Houston and other Gulf Coast ports will also be able to take crude from them, spawning an active market for crude sellers and ship owners.

Most vessels that discharge in the U.S. Gulf had challenges finding regular back-haul cargoes because of the restrictions that were eased last week, Stefanos Kazantzis, senior shipping adviser at McQuilling Services, said in an instant message. The U.S. already allowed exports of refined products.

“At 200,000 barrels a day of additional U.S. crude exports (on top of what goes to Canada), we estimate that about five to seven Aframax tankers would be required to deliver the crude to ports in Europe and the Caribbean/South America,” Kazantzis said.

Imports to PADD 3, the Gulf Coast region, averaged 3.04 million barrels a day in 2014. It would take four to six Aframax tankers or three Suezmax ships to carry that amount.

Much of the extra movement will get different crude grades to the refineries that are best suited to process them, CME Group Inc.’s Dan Brusstar, senior director of energy research, said in a phone interview. Brusstar said the exports will be lighter, sweeter crudes headed for Europe and that U.S. Gulf refineries will keep importing heavier grades.

“Sweet crude will be moved out of the U.S.," Brusstar said. “You will see efficiency."