Oil companies are securing licences to export US crude at a frantic pace as the shale boom leads to swelling supplies along the Gulf of Mexico.
The US government granted 103 licences to ship crude oil abroad in its latest fiscal year, up by more than half from the 66 approved in 2012 and the highest since at least 2006, according to data obtained by the Financial Times.
All but a dozen of last year’s licences were to Canada, where companies may buy US crude as long as they refine it there.
The clamour for licences is unexpected as Canada is the top foreign oil supplier to the US.
But huge production gains in states such as Texas, coupled with restrictions on coastal tanker movements to US refineries, encourage traders to buy cheap Gulf coast crude and sell it in eastern Canada at higher global prices.
Exports to Canada totalled 99,000 barrels per day in September, the latest official data show. Traders estimate flows have since risen to about 200,000 b/d, the highest in more than a decade. Valero, the biggest North American refiner, has received a licence to export Eagle Ford crude from Texas to its refinery in Quebec, eastern Canada.
Irving Oil, which owns Canada’s biggest refinery, has been buying US crude delivered by vessel and railway. Trafigura, the trading house, said a subsidiary had held an export licence to Canada for years.
More than 3.3m barrels of US crude have been exported to Canada from the Port of Corpus Christi in Texas in the 11 months to November, said Dennis DeVries, director of finance. Volume has jumped 10-fold from 2012. The shipments compete with production from Canada’s offshore Atlantic fields. Chile’s state oil company ENAP bought some of the displaced Canadian crude, traders said.
德克萨斯州科尔普斯克里斯蒂港(Port of Corpus Christi)财务总监丹尼斯•德弗里斯(Dennis DeVries)表示，今年头11个月，经由该港出口至加拿大的美国原油已超过330万桶。自2012年以来，这个数字已累计增长9倍。来自美国的原油与加拿大位于大西洋的海上油田形成竞争。贸易商表示，被美国原油取代的加拿大原油部分被智利国家石油公司ENAP买走。
US crude oil exports to markets outside Canada have been tightly controlled since 1975, when the country was reeling from the Arab oil embargo.
Jake Dweck, partner at the Sutherland Asbill & Brennan law firm, said: “Companies, particularly traders, often obtain licences to make sure they have the option to act if the market opportunity arises. So some end up actually using their licences while others just sit on them.”
Sutherland Asbill & Brennan律师事务所合伙人杰克•德韦克(Jake Dweck)说：“以贸易商为首的企业获取牌照，往往是为了确保它们在市场出现机会的时候有采取行动的选择。有些企业的牌照最终真正派上了用场，有些则没有。”