At first glance the impact on global markets of the late-2015 decision to end a 40-year ban on US crude exports has been relatively muted, coming as it did at the same time as a fall in domestic output from its early 2015 peak. But as US output rebounds – it is already 200,000 b/d up from its September low and the IEA predicts it will hit 15mn b/d in the late 2020s (MEES, 18 November) – the country’s grades will become a growing presence on international crude markets.

Growing US exports will not necessarily mean a fall in imports. The US has this year been vying with China as the global number one crude importer with around 8mn b/d. And these volumes are unlikely to shrink given that key refineries on the US Gulf are configured to extract maximum value from (cheaper) heavy sour crude, such as key grades from Saudi Arabia and Iraq, whilst much of the country’s domestic production – including that from key shale formations – is better quality light sweet grades which are heavily sought after in many export markets. (CONTINUED - 2062 WORDS)