August 2021, Vol. 248, No. 8


EIA Reports: US Oil Imports from OPEC Down; Canada Imports Remain High

Voluntary OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) production cuts have been contributing to reduced U.S. crude oil imports from OPEC so far in 2021. Comparatively stable U.S. crude oil imports from Canada, however, have been mostly the result of longer-term trends.   

Between 2005 and 2020, U.S. crude oil imports from OPEC members decreased rapidly, but imports from non-OPEC members remained relatively high. In particular, U.S. crude oil imports from Canada more than doubled to average 3.6 MMbpd in 2020, which was more than the combined total of crude oil imports from all other countries.  

Because of increased domestic production of light crude oil, U.S. imports of medium and light crude oils have decreased while U.S. imports of heavier crude oils have remained comparatively stable.   

 This trend has resulted in declining crude oil imports from OPEC member countries because, historically, OPEC has exported medium and light crude oil grades to the United States. In contrast, imports from Canada and other non-OPEC countries that historically have exported heavy crude oil grades have remained relatively stable.   

In 2020, crude oil imports from OPEC averaged 816,000 bpd, the lowest level in annual EIA data (which dates back to 1973), while imports of 3.6 MMbpd from Canada were the third highest on record, after 2019 and 2018.  

U.S. imports of crude oil from Canada generally have had lower landed costs (the price at the port of discharge, including charges associated with the purchase, transportation and insurance) than crude oil imports from other countries. These low costs have encouraged U.S. crude oil imports from Canada.   

However, pipeline capacity to deliver crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast is limited, and the final delivery point for most U.S. imports of crude oil from Canada has been the Midwest.  

Canada produced record amounts of crude oil in 2019, which supported record U.S. crude oil imports of 3.8 MMbpd from Canada. In 2020, U.S. crude oil imports from Canada fell 6% as total U.S. crude oil imports fell 14%.  

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