The US shale boom, which has seen the country become a (periodic) net exporter of both oil and LNG, has massively disrupted global energy trade. As substantial volumes of US oil have headed to Europe, the continent’s much reduced need for imports have seen shipments from the Gulf sink dramatically. At the same time key Asian importers, such as Korea (MEES, 17 January), have also seen a rapid rise in US volumes.

The effect of both these trends can clearly be seen in freshly-released Suez Canal transit data for 2019. For the first time in decades southbound flows of oil in general, and crude in particular, outweighed northbound transits. The Suez Canal is the key shipping conduit linking the Atlantic Basin with Asia and the Middle East. So, less demand for Gulf crude in Europe and North America has meant a drop in oil shipments in a northerly direction, whilst much of the record US-to-Asia oil and LNG flows have passed south through the canal. Overall, the increasing complexity of global oil trade flows, with the US remaining a substantial importer as well as an exporter of crude, has been good for Suez. (CONTINUED - 1085 WORDS)