U.S. Sets New Records for Oil Exports as EU Looks for New Supplies

Corpus Christi oil terminals and two tankers
Image courtesy Port of Corpus Christi

Published Dec 5, 2022 6:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

As Russia's oil exports prepare for a hit from new EU sanctions, the petroleum is flowing freely at American loading terminals, which are busier than ever before. The U.S. exported a record 11.8 million barrels per day of oil and oil products last week, including both seaborne and pipeline volumes, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. TankerTrackers.com calculates that out of that total, a record-setting 7.1 million barrels per day left the United States by sea. 

The boom is fueled by record demand for American oil in Europe, where Russian crude oil imports are now fully banned. (Russian gasoline and diesel are still allowed in the EU market until February.) American oil exports to the European market are up to a record 1.5 million barrels per day, more than 10 percent of total volumes. 

The boom can be readily seen at the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas, which is setting back-to-back records for cargo. Driven by a substantial increase in oil exports, which make up the majority of Corpus Christi's business by weight, the port's exporters shipped out 48 million tonnes of cargo in the third quarter of the year - surpassing a record of 46 million tonnes set in the second quarter. 

“In these times of uncertainty, moving America’s energy to other U.S. demand centers and our overseas allies and trading partners has never been more critical for our economic and national security,” said CEO Sean Strawbridge.

But there are physical limits to how much American oil can be sold out of the domestic market by sea. Texas' ports can't fully load the largest and most economical class of tankers, very large crude carriers (VLCCs). If traders wish to use VLCCs for Texas oil, they have to employ smaller tankers to ferry the crude out from the terminal to the supertanker at anchor. America only has one fully VLCC-compatible terminal, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, a single-point mooring off Port Fourchon.

That may change in the near future. The Biden administration has quietly approved an Enterprise Product Partners / Enbridge proposal to install an offshore loading buoy some 30 nautical miles off the coast of Freeport, Texas. Both the U.S. EPA and the Maritime Administration have signed off on key steps in the permitting process. If built, the proposed Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT) would be America's second VLCC-capable loading facility and would add two million barrels per day of export capacity. This would be sufficient to export more than 15 percent of all American-produced oil to overseas consumers.