US crude exports to Asia give VLCCs hope

The US is ramping oil production with much of the exports bound for Asia, something that will see tonne-mile demand improve for the hard pressed VLCC sector, according to new analysis from tanker broker Poten & Partners.

In its most recent short-term energy outlook, the US Energy Information Administration forecasts that US crude oil production will rise to an average of 12m barrels per day in 2022 and 12.6m barrels per day in 2023, which would be a record on a yearly average basis. The average 2022 production would represent an increase of 800,000 barrels per day over the 11.2m barrels per day average US output of 2021, an increase of 7%. Major producers like ExxonMobil and Chevron have announced in their recent quarterly earnings calls that they will boost production by 25% and 10% respectively.

Last year, 50% of all US crude oil export cargoes were sold into Asia

Poten described the US as “probably the most dynamic and competitive oil market in the world”.

US crude exports to Asia have been increasingly dramatically in recent years – from 538,000 barrels per day in 2017 to 2.7m barrels per day last year. Last year, 50% of all US crude oil export cargoes were sold into Asia.

“If a similar percentage of the additional 1.4 mb/d expected for 2022 and 2023 will also be transported to Asia, it will mean a major boost for VLCC ton-mile demand,” Poten suggested in its latest weekly report.

To put this in perspective, an increase in exports of 700,000 barrels per day from the US to Asia would require an additional 35 VLCCs, assuming ballast-back voyages. The same volume coming from the Middle East would require only 10 to 12 VLCCs.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


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