By Arathy Somasekhar
HOUSTON (Reuters) – U.S. refiners imported about 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude and fuel oil from Latin America in April, the highest in seven months according to U.S. Customs data, as buyers began replacing Russian supplies.
The United States in March banned imports of Russian crude and refined products over its invasion of Ukraine, setting April 22 as end date for purchases. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged companies to adopt “friend-shoring” supply networks, or buying from trusted countries.
Russia supplied about 135,000 bpd, or 5.5% of total U.S. crude imports last year, and 155,350 bpd, or 29%, of fuel oil imports, according to Customs data on Refinitiv Eikon. Russian crude imports touched a record high in 2021 after hurricanes disrupted production, data from Energy Information Administration.
Imports of fuel oil from Latin America averaged some 200,000 bpd in March and April, 49% higher than in the previous 12 months. Mexico’s share of U.S. fuel oil imports climbed to about 27% in March and April, from 19% a year earlier, the data showed.
About 15 vessels discharged 159,000 bpd of Mexican fuel oil in Louisiana, California, Texas and Florida, supplying Exxon Mobil Corp , Chevron Corp and Marathon Petroleum Corp, among others.
“The really interesting storyline has been Mexico’s ability to capture market share from Russia,” said energy strategist Clay Seigle. “The U.S. market for Russian fuel oil has been permanently destroyed.”
<<For an interactive graphic on U.S. crude and fuel oil imports from Latin America, click here https://tmsnrt.rs/3yG3gIX>>
U.S. imports of Latin American crude also climbed in April, to 1.34 million bpd, its highest in six months. Purchases from Argentina rose to a four-year high while imports from Colombia reaching their highest since September 2020.
Cargoes of Argentina’s light sweet Medanito arrived at Valero Energy Corp’s Benicia refinery in California and Phillips 66’s Ferndale refinery in Washington. About 1 million barrels of Argentina’s medium Escalante crude also discharged at Par Hawaii Refining’s Honolulu plant.
Par Hawaii President Eric Wright said oil from North and South America was meeting Hawaii’s crude processing requirements. Historically, the company had sourced 20%-25% of its oil from Russia.
About 1.8 million barrels of Colombian oil were supplied to processors, including PBF Energy Inc’s Delaware City and Valero’s St Charles refineries.
Colombia last week said it could increase oil exports to the United States by about 40,000 bpd by year-end.
Marathon, Exxon and Phillips 66 declined to comment. Chevron, Valero and PBF did not respond to a comment request.
Valero and PBF last month said they would ramp up imports from Latin America as they warned of a shortage of feedstocks.
(Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in Houston; Editing by Marguerita Choy)