November 15, 2018 / 7:48 PM / a month ago

U.S. Gulf Coast crude imports fall to 1-year low as exports surge

HOUSTON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - U.S. Gulf Coast crude oil imports in October fell to the lowest level in more than a year as the nation’s production and exports soared, data from Refinitiv Eikon and market intelligence firm Kpler show.

Crude imports in the Gulf Coast, or PADD 3 region, averaged 2.35 million barrels per day (bpd) in October, down from 2.71 million bpd the month before and the lowest since September 2017, Refinitiv data show.

Booming U.S. shale oil production has triggered pipeline bottlenecks in the Permian Basin and Bakken fields, pushing domestic light, sweet crude prices $10 per barrel cheaper than the global benchmark Brent WTCLc1-LCOc1. U.S. refiners have boosted their purchases in response.

“They can’t process that much of the lighter crude, but if it’s cheap enough, they’ll figure out how to blend it in and use more of it,” said Sandy Fielden, an energy analyst at research firm Morningstar.

U.S. crude production last week reached a record 11.7 million bpd, and nationwide refinery utilization was 90.1 percent, up from 88.8 percent a month ago, the Energy Information Administration said on Thursday.

Crude exports loaded at ports along the Gulf Coast rose to 1.9 million bpd last month from 1.7 million bpd the previous month and the highest level since June. Shipments from the Gulf Coast to Europe was the highest since May, at 457,000 bpd, Refinitiv data showed.

“At a certain price, the lighter crude makes sense” for Gulf Coast refiners, said John Auers, executive vice president at consultancy Turner, Mason & Co. “If a domestic barrel is more economic to process than a foreign barrel, they’ll definitely process that domestic barrel.” (Reporting by Collin Eaton Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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