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Understanding U.S. oil imports and exports | Why we still accept from other countries

Russian imports are banned, but the U.S. continues to import crude oil and refined products from other countries

ATLANTA — The U.S. has banned oil imports from Russia but continues to accept imports from other countries, some of them the very same countries accepting petroleum from the United States.

When it comes to gasoline, the United States is like a busy intersection. The U.S. is one of the top producers of crude oil in the world. While some product is refined and burned as gasoline here, the U.S. also ships some of its petroleum to as many as 180 other countries, primarily Mexico and Canada, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

At the same time, Mexico, Canada, and in a typical year, Russia are among the countries shipping their petroleum here.

“We import a lot, we export a lot, but we also produce domestically a lot,” Andrew Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates said.

Crude oil is bought and sold on a global market. According to the EIA, large oil companies sell their product to a worldwide market. 

Most of what the U.S. produces comes from the Gulf Coast. The Energy Information Administration states that it often makes more financial sense for refineries in the Gulf to export some of their gasoline to Mexico, rather than shipping it to areas of the east coast that are getting cheaper product from Europe.

“We have areas of the country that are more dependent on imports compared to other places in the country that are able to export significant quantities of crude oil and refined products,” Lipow added. 

He said some refineries in the Gulf have also invested in equipment to process crude that’s high in sulfur.

“Imports that come out of the Middle East are of the heavy high sulfur variety, and it's cheaper to purchase those types of crude oils and upgrade,” Lipow concluded.

In 2020 when demand was low, Americans consumed about 18-million barrels of petroleum a day.


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