U.S. crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq, two of the United States’ main sources for imported crude oil, have risen since reaching relatively low points in 2014 and 2015. On a combined basis, crude oil imports from these countries are the highest since late 2012. However, recent market developments, including the November 2016 agreement among certain members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to reduce production and the recent widening of price differences between Dubai/Oman crude oil and U.S.-produced Mars crude oil, suggest that U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq are now becoming less attractive to U.S. refiners.
In late 2016, high production in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, as well as seasonally low internal demand in Saudi Arabia, contributed to record crude oil exports from Iraq and near-record exports from Saudi Arabia, according to data from the Joint Organizations Data Initiative (JODI). Saudi crude oil exports reached 8.3 million barrels per day (b/d) in November 2016, the highest level since May 2003, before declining to 8.0 million b/d in December. Saudi exports generally increase from August to November as seasonal declines in domestic consumption increase availability of crude oil for export.
In Iraq, exports reached a record high of nearly 4.1 million b/d in November 2016 and remained at that level in December. According to JODI data, Saudi and Iraqi production levels were relatively high prior to the pledged January 2017 production cuts , with December 2016 volumes up 321,000 b/d and 700,000 b/d, respectively, from their year-ago levels, creating an opportunity to increase exports.
Source: US Department of Energy