North America’s shale oil boom has started to squeeze Saudi Arabian oil out of the U.S. market in the same way it did with West African crude, the West’s energy agency said on Thursday. The International Energy Agency also predicted a flood of U.S. gasoline exports to world market.
“In recent years, surging light tight oil production has backed out U.S. imports of West African crude, which are now moving to Asia,” the IEA said in a monthly report.
“Saudi exports seem to be showing the beginning of a similar shift,” it said, estimating that Saudi exports have likely run below 7 million barrels per day for the last four months, their lowest level since September 2011.
“Exports to the U.S. led the drop amid rising Saudi domestic demand for crude burn and refinery runs,” the IEA said. Saudi Arabia was pricing oil out of the U.S. markets by keeping official selling prices high while adjusting them down for Asia, it added.
The North American supply boom has not only cut crude imports into the United States but also turned it into a net products exporter – in sharp contrast with previous decades when it was the largest importer in the world.
“In coming years… U.S. light distillate exports will reach increasingly far-flung markets,” said the IEA, which estimates that Canada and the United States could have a surplus of naphtha and gasoline of around 1.3 million barrels per day by 2019.
Planned expansion at Valero and Marathon refineries to process more of the light tight oil extracted from U.S. fields will add to the glut, the IEA said.
Most of Europe’s refineries were designed to produce gasoline for American drivers.