CALGARY, (Reuters) :U.S. fuel exports surged to the highest level on record in April, buoyed by a swooping rise in distillate exports to Latin American countries, government data showed.
Total finished petroleum products exports rose about 217,000 barrels-per-day in April compared with the previous month and reached a record high of 2.42 million bpd, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
This was led by a 222,000 bpd rise in distillate exports in April after the United States exported 873,000 distillate barrels a day, the highest in six months.
Gasoline exports also rose, up 43,000 bpd to 478,000 barrels, the largest level since December 2010, when gasoline exports hit a record high of just under 517,000 bpd, EIA added.
U.S. refiners have sought better profits from Latin American exports over the past year as local demand waned because of the sluggish economy.
In April alone, monthly supplies of refined petroleum products in the United States, which the EIA uses to monitor demand, fell 168,000 bpd to 16.52 million bpd as oil prices jumped following the Libyan production outage.
Local distillate demand was hit hard during that period according to EIA data, which shows 304,000 bpd fewer barrels were supplied to the U.S. market.
That month, the price of a barrel of U.S. crude oil rose as high as $114.83, a level it hadn’t reached since September 2008.
In these circumstances, exports have been a source of solid growth for U.S. refiners such as Valero Energy, which is building two 50,000 barrels-per-day hydrocrackers at its Port Arthur and St. Charles refineries in the Gulf Coast.
“If refineries are producing more, and U.S. demand isn’t rising apace, it makes sense that exports would also rise,” said Bill Day, spokesperson for the largest independent refiner Valero.
Countries like Mexico and Brazil continue to absorb a bulk of what the United States is sending from its shores.
Exports to Mexico rose to 637,500 barrels-per-day in April, close to the record highs seen in December last year.
Distillate exports to Brazil may have declined in April, judging by the 28,000 bpd cut that month but total exports to the country remain high.
Brazil’s appetite shows no sign of relenting and it rose
11.2 percent in 2010 to nearly 850,000 barrels per day, as truckers tried to keep up with the sizzling 7.5 percent gross domestic product growth rate.
Barrels that didn’t make it to these hot destinations ended up in Venezuela, Panama, Argentina and Chile where total oil products exports from the United States surged.