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U.S. sets record for export of refined petroleum products

Members of the European Union are busy looking for alternatives to Russian fuels.

The United States is now a premier oil and natural gas supplier. File Photo by Pattie Steib/Shutterstock
The United States is now a premier oil and natural gas supplier. File Photo by Pattie Steib/Shutterstock

Sept. 26 (UPI) -- As global energy supplies tighten as a result of Western-backed sanctions on Russia, the U.S. Energy Department reported Monday that total U.S. exports of refined petroleum products hit a record.

Russia is among the world's leading suppliers of natural gas, crude oil and refined petroleum products. Western powers since the Russian assault on Ukraine began in late February have sought to limit what goes to the Kremlin's war chest by sanctioning its oil and gas trade.

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That leaves it to the likes of the United States, now a premier oil and natural gas supplier in its own right, to fill some of the void.

The Energy Information Administration, part of the Energy Department, said in a briefing Monday that total U.S. exports of petroleum products averaged nearly 6 million barrels per day during the first six months of the year. That's the most ever for a six-month period since record-keeping began in 1973.

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And when compared with the first half of 2021, total U.S. petroleum product exports are up 11%, or 595,000 bpd, which is the fastest growth rate for the period since 2017. Refineries, meanwhile, were operating at 93.6% of the total capacity during the week ending Sept. 16, EIA data show, up from the 91.5% level reported during the week ending Sept. 9.

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Of the refined petroleum products finding their way to the global market, EIA said it was distillates -- a product that includes diesel -- that saw the most increase.

"High demand and low inventories globally, along with economic sanctions against Russia and self-sanctioning by some firms after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, have disrupted global distillate trade," EIA stated.

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Self-sanctioning refers to a corporate practice of avoiding trade for fear of getting caught in the web of Western-backed limits.

Separate data from the Energy Department finds that most exports of refined petroleum products, however, seem to be staying in North America, though Japan is another top destination. So far, EIA explained that flows to the European market from Russia have not changed all that much.

That will change, however. By December, members of the European Union are expected to place a moratorium on Russian crude oil imports and a similar ban on refined products goes into effect in February.

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That may leave Europe struggling with supplies during the winter. Apart from refined products, the European market is facing a severe gas shortage. In its monthly market report for September, EIA stated that natural gas pipeline imports from Russia are at their lowest in 40 years.

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