Production & Exports of Crude Oil & Petroleum Products Soar to Record in 2023, SPR Gets Refilled (Slowly)

US oil production boom has dramatically changed global energy dynamics. 

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Crude oil production in the US soared to a record 12.9 million barrels per day in 2023, up by 158% since 2008, when fracking started becoming a significant factor.

The surge in production in 2022 and 2023 was a result of much higher oil prices starting in 2021. In commodities, the cure for high prices is high prices because they encourage producers to ramp up production, and the surge in supply then brings down prices. Frackers can ramp up production with astonishing speed, as we have seen.

In 2018, the US became the largest crude oil producer in the world, and has kept that position since then. By 2020, the US – which had long been desperately dependent on imports – became a net exporter of crude oil and petroleum products on an annual basis, exporting more than importing.

US oil production has dramatically changed global energy dynamics – including the advantages of relatively cheap and reliable energy in the US for transportation and industrial uses.

Fracking has also turned the US into the largest producer of natural gas in the world, with natural gas production and exports jumping to records in 2023, and with overproduction since 2009 crushing the price of natural gas along the way, with big long-term implications for power generation in the US. Plentiful, stable, and relatively cheap energy is a huge benefit to US industrial users, businesses, and households.

Exports and Imports of crude oil and petroleum products.

Exports of crude oil and petroleum products soared by 6.6% in 2023, to a record 10.15 MMb/d (red line in the chart below).

Imports edged up to 8.5 MMb/d, far below the levels in the prior decades, which had peaked at nearly 14 MMb/d in 2005 (blue line).

Where the red line is higher than the blue line, that’s when the US became a net exporter of crude oil and petroleum products:

Exports of crude oil and petroleum products come in two big categories: About 40% of exports is crude oil (blue area in the chart below), and about 60% of exports are petroleum products (red area).

Exports of crude oil spiked by 13.5% to 4.06 MMb/d in 2023.

Exports of petroleum products rose by 2.5% to 6.1 MMb/d. Value-added petroleum products include gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, of which the US exported 2.1 MMb/d combined in 2023.

The US oil trade is vast and complex.

Many refineries are refining not only domestic crude oil, but also imported crude oil, and export the refined petroleum products. This is a huge business on the Gulf Coast.

And it’s even a big business in “oil island” California. The state is not connected via pipeline to the producing regions east of the Rockies. Refineries in the state get some crude oil from California production, get some from Alaska by ship, get a little by rail from other states, and import crude oil from other countries. And then they sell product into the market and export gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other products to other countries, mostly to Latin America. The West Coast (PADD 5) exported 0.39 MMb/d to other countries in 2023.

The US, having transitioned over the years from being the world’s largest net importer to being a net exporter, has changed the global equation and the global energy trade.

Exports of crude oil and petroleum products by country.

Mexico is the largest customer of the US, largely buying refined product, some of which is shipped from said refineries in California.

China is the second largest customer. In terms of the European countries on the list: these are the countries where the product is offloaded and transferred to the European network of pipelines; the end-users may be other EU countries.

Exports of crude oil & petroleum products in 2023 to:
1 Mexico 1.17
2 China 0.98
3 Netherlands 0.86
4 Canada 0.80
5 Japan 0.62
6 South Korea 0.60
7 India 0.40
8 United Kingdom 0.36
9 Singapore 0.34
10 Spain 0.25
11 Brazil 0.24
12 Taiwan 0.24
13 France 0.22
14 Italy 0.20
15 Chile 0.18

Imports of crude oil and petroleum products by country.

These are the top 10 countries from which the US imported crude oil and petroleum products. Canada is by far the largest source, followed by Mexico. Both combined accounted for 63% of total imports by the US in 2023. And that’s a good thing. Saudi Arabia, #3, accounted for only 5% of US imports. And that’s a good thing too.

Imports of crude oil & petroleum products, 2023
1 Canada 4.42
2 Mexico 0.91
3 Saudi Arabia 0.44
4 Iraq 0.32
5 Brazil 0.26
6 Colombia 0.23
7 Nigeria 0.16
8 Ecuador 0.14
9 Venezuela 0.13
10 South Korea 0.13

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The Biden administration released large portions of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve from mid-2022 through June 2023 to push down the price of crude oil that had spiked. Since August 2023, the SPR is being slowly refilled.

The SPR was created decades ago after two massive oil shocks in the 1970s when the US was desperately dependent on crude oil imports. The idea was to give the US some reserves that, in addition to its own production, would prevent the US from running out of oil for a period that would be long enough to line up alternatives.

But the situation has changed. The US has become the largest producer in the world, and a net exporter of crude oil and petroleum products, and it’s receiving over 60% of its much reduced imports from Canada and Mexico: This raised the question if the SPR is still needed at all.

Starting in 2017, the Trump administration began draining the SPR for that reason. Between 2017 and the end of 2020, the SPR was reduced by 8.2%.

The Biden administration then began dumping large amounts of crude oil on the market to push the prices that had spiked sky-high back down. And prices plunged for all kinds of reasons, including a turn in market psychology, the huge ramp-up of US production driven by high prices (see first chart), and the releases not only from the US SPR but also the coordinated releases from petroleum reserves in other countries.

The SPR is now being slowly refilled, at lower prices than the prices at which the crude oil was sold. Sell high, buy low is good businesses for taxpayers for a change. So the SPR served a purpose: helping to push down spiking prices and ending a market mania. And that function, that it wasn’t designed for originally but that turned out to be useful, may yet extend its lifespan:

Enjoy reading WOLF STREET and want to support it? You can donate. I appreciate it immensely. Click on the beer and iced-tea mug to find out how:

Would you like to be notified via email when WOLF STREET publishes a new article? Sign up here.

  65 comments for “Production & Exports of Crude Oil & Petroleum Products Soar to Record in 2023, SPR Gets Refilled (Slowly)

  1. MC Bear says:

    Holy cow the SPR dropped 45% since 2021. Assuming 5% of US production returns to the SPR per day (and production remains at 12.9 MMb/day), we’re looking at approximately 450 days to return to 2021 levels (640 MMb). Keep drillin’!

    Wolf, can you summarize how much advanced notice (if any) the US public gets for when the SPR is released to the market? I’m doubtful a release would happen anytime soon, primarily due to geopolitical/strategic reasons. (Can’t see the military approving.) But just how much notice does the market get? Can’t see producers too happy with a large release like from 2021 through 2022.

    Thanks as always.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Releases under Biden were officially announced with greatest fanfare in advance, and they showed up in the headlines well before they happened, done for psychological effect. The purpose of releases is not to quietly drain the SPR but to change market psychology, and so the administration counted on the “announcement effect.”

      • Perth says:

        Sure, kinda miss the political implications of draining the reserve, you know pushing prices down, before an election…..

        Also what the prices are that they received for the oil they sold while they were pushing down the prices and what they are now paying for the few barrels of oil they have actually bought…

        • Wolf Richter says:


          You want oil prices to spike and gasoline prices to spike so you could hate Biden even more?

          Spiking energy prices were terrible for consumers and for businesses, and a President should use the SPR to prick this market mania, which is what it was. There was never any shortage of oil, it was all mania.

          You’re just pissed off that people who bought 1,000 Biden-did-this stickers to put on gas pumps now have to stick them on their foreheads?

          Bringing down gasoline prices from the spike in 2021 and 2022 was a good thing for American households and businesses, and it was 2-3 years before the election.

          Trump, who started the draining of the SPR in 2017 through 2020, would have done the same thing.

          And now before the election, the Biden administration is actually REFILLING the SPR 🤣

        • I M says:

          Draining the SPR to lower oil/gas prices leading into the 2022 midterm elections was the primary goal. The secondary goal that came later was geopolitical in attempting to fill global supply gaps expected from sanctioning Russia over Ukraine and heading off a price spike that never came.

          That global oil supply disruption became little more than a blip because western sanctions and blustering did little to impact Russian oil exports. Russia simply found other buyers who didn’t care about western sanctions, including China and India. Europe banned direct Russian refined products then used India as a refiner for Russian oil derived products. India’s oil imports from Russia jumped from nil to 1/5th of total and their refined product exports to Europe surged over that period.

          “China’s imports of Russian crude oil hit record high”
          – CNN, 6/20/22

          “Fuels from Russian oil gets backdoor entry into Europe via India”
          – Reuters, 5/5/2023

          Trump had no intention of draining the SPR. This article omits the important detail that Trump tried to buy 77M barrels to replenish the SPR in 2020 at depressed prices but Pelosi and gang rejected the $3B funding request.

          No large funding requests have come through to “refill the SPR” so what you’re seeing now is unremarkable churn.

          The Biden admin had no intention of refilling the SPR because their stated goal was to make all consumer ICE vehicles obsolete and replace them with EV’s. Without gasoline demand for consumer autos there is adequate domestic oil production to meet demand for jet fuel, diesel, etc.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          I M

          Your comment is larded with BS. But this is the cherry on top of the BS:

          “Without gasoline demand for consumer autos there is adequate domestic oil production to meet demand for jet fuel, diesel, etc.”

          Such ignorant BS. The US today now already overproduces gasoline, diesel and jet fuel and exported 2 MMb/d in 2023 as part of the 10MMb/d of its total exports of crude oil and petroleum products.


        • I M says:

          The Energy Dept said the average sales prices were around $96. The admin stated they will buy to replenish at $70. That’s the bottom tick for that grade of oil for the last two years. The admin purchases will become the price floor for years at this rate.

          Forget about gas at $2.18/gal again.

          All those “I did that” stickers went from the gas pumps to the meat, produce, and cereal aisle. Might even find some on your mortgage or car loan applications.

          One place you won’t find them is on your year-to-date interest for your bank account.

      • John H. says:

        “…done for psychological effect”

        Both sides of the political isle use this type of maneuver for political gain, in addition to psychological (market manipulating) effect.

        Vote-buying activities, to put it more bluntly. Loser: price discovery.

        • Dan says:

          Technically when Trump made a deal on November 20,2020 with Saudi Arabia and Russia to cut a million barrels a day in US production to drive up the price of oil it was not to harm Biden….

      • GuessWhat says:

        ~13M barrels / ~ 725M barrels = 1.8%

        Yes, I would say that’s VERY, VERY slowly.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          They shouldn’t refill it at all. It’s no longer needed. They should continue what Trump started and drain it slowly. Fracking can ramp up production so fast when prices spike that it makes your head spin, as we have seen. The US is no longer dependent on Saudi Arabia, like it was in the 1970s and 1980s. The SPR’s purpose was to protect the US for some time if OPEC turns off the tap again. For the US, OPEC has become irrelevant. And so has the SPR that was designed to fight it.

  2. Leo says:

    Bitcoin as 68K. We should just create cryptos and export. Much easier than drilling oil and fetches insane value.

    This rally is not meaningless. It’s different this time :P

  3. Eider says:

    There was a period when I would regularly drive US 2 through the Bakken Shale. It was wild in the late 2000s/early 2010s. Trailer groups started popping up all over the place, drilling rigs transported on the roads and erected as far as you could see from the highway. There were recruiters at rest stops on US 2 and as far south as Miles City on I-94. They would take anyone with a pulse. In hindsight, I could have made good money assuming I had avoided the various issues that come with boom area man camps.

    In 2022, I drove through Williston, ND on the way back from a family trip. A city had popped up where the trailer groups had been. Williston even had numerous stop lights and traffic. Classic boom town. We’ll see how long it lasts.

  4. Pancho says:

    If the SPR continues to refill at the rate of 5 million barrels per month, it will be another 68 months before it returns to 700 million barrels.

    So mark October of 2029 on the calendar. Let’s check in then to see how things are looking.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Under Trump, there was a lot of discussion about not needing the SPR anymore and draining it completely but slowly. And they started draining it slowly. To me, that’s still a reasonable view and maybe the best solution – given the massive oil production in the US.

      • Motorcycle John says:

        If we drain the SPR and retain the storage then we can become the buyer of last resort next time oil goes negative?

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Yes, LOL. But it was negative only for a few futures contracts. Your point though is well taken. If WTI drops to low levels, as it had in 2015-2020, then that would be a great time to refill the SPR with cheap oil.

  5. Harrold says:

    Crude oil demand is about 20 million bbl per day. So if domestic production is 12.9, there is still a large gap that’s being filled by imports. It’s chaos. Instead of just using what we have, we export some of it and import even more.

    Here Sally, take these 3 apples. Now give me 5 apples. Crazy.

  6. Xaver says:

    Very interesting, thank you. I see I have to learn some basics. Did not know that the US is a net exporter. Reducing the reserve substantially at the right time was a good move.

  7. SpencerG says:

    I hadn’t realized that the SPR had been drained that much. I don’t support taking it back up to where it was at its peak… but a buffer stock to keep an unexpected crisis at bay is good government policy. It probably ought to level off at the 500 million barrel level.

  8. WB says:

    That last chart is ridiculous. Can we stop calling it the “strategic” petroleum reserve, and simply call it what it is, the “political” petroleum reserve. That drop is criminal in light of the increasing conflicts around the world and the original intent of the reserve.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      You want oil prices to spike and gasoline prices to spike so you could hate Biden even more?

      Spiking energy prices were terrible for consumers and for businesses, and a President should use the SPR to prick this market mania, which is what it was. There was never any shortage of oil, it was all mania.

      Bringing down gasoline prices from the spike in 2021 and 2022 was a good thing for American households and businesses, and it was 2-3 years before the election.

      Trump, who rightfully started the draining of the SPR in 2017 through 2020, would have done the same thing.

      And now before the election, the Biden administration is actually REFILLING the SPR 🤣

  9. eg says:

    So, gas station with nukes?

    I’ll see myself out …

  10. Dennis G says:

    …and the price at the pump keeps climbing.

  11. MM says:

    Since 2011, the USA has added two and a half Saudi Arabias of oil production.


    • The Struggler says:


      Commodity extraction and exploration is a highly politicized process. Between regulation and competition it’s a changing landscape.

      The Saudis likely have a lot more capacity… but prices matter. Same with the US. BUT

      there’s a lot of charge in the US/ Eurozone political landscape regarding fossil fuels. We all use energy and there’s a NIMBY effect in many places.

      The Natgas scenario in the US is crazy, we’re literally torching our resources due to low prices and different priorities in some locations.

      With LNG we’re going to be able to profit from this previous “waste.” There’s a lot of regions that have NONE of these resources. China has a love affair with coal based on proximity and abundance.

      Next: the micro-nuclear revolution? (Check out the Uranium price chart!)

  12. Luke says:

    We just need to refurbish many of our own refineries so we can use our own oil.

    • Anthony A. says:

      We don’t need anymore refining capacity right now and we do refine our own crude where it makes sense for the correct products.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      RTGDFA. What does it say about US EXPORTS of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel????

      • 1stTDinvestor says:

        Don’t you know yet, none of these trolls read anything! They read a headline, share, and comment. Many of the commenters here don’t have the attention span to read an entire article. Sad but true for 97% of Americans.

    • Russell says:

      True statement, Luke –

      It would further remove dependence on foreign oil and greatly reduce costs/risks of transporting oil both directions whether in pipeline or barge. Imports and exports would both be reduced even as the net consumption remained the same.

  13. Djreef says:

    Nat gas at 30 yr lows, but perhaps a conversation for another time. There’s got to be a play in here somewhere.

    • Anthony A. says:

      Yes, nat gas is a commodity and make your investments accordingly. See Wolf’s previous article of a day or so ago.

    • MM says:

      Right now domestic natty gas prices are the equivalent of $10/bbl oil.

  14. Timothy Francis says:

    What is the point of keeping it above ground at a high relative cost when you can store it in the shale for nothing, and it is out of reach for any attackers? If there is concerns about future reserves then reduce pumping.

    • Quint says:

      What is the point of making a comment with false assumptions about how oil is stored in the SPR?

  15. The original Marco says:

    Let’s be honest the current Administration took the SPR as a financial gift and are only minimally refilling it to cover face. Potentially very naive in the long term.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Fracking can ramp up production at lightning speed, if the price spikes. That’s what we saw happen. There really is no fundamental need anymore for the SPR.

  16. Not Wolf says:

    As a Canadian it makes me sad we never bothered to create means of exporting hydrocarbons other than pipelines, and have to settle for 60cents on the dollar relative to international prices. WCS prices are the worst.
    Just wait until Michigan shuts down Line 5 and we (Ontario) have to buy American NG instead of getting our own supplies, then Marcellus prices will get a big boost

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Can’t you finally use the new expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline system to move that oil to the West Coast for export? That expansion is now finished and they’re expecting it to go into service later this spring, that’s my understanding. There is already a lot of handwringing in the US about losing our cheap Canadian oil, LOL, but it was fun while it lasted.

  17. Stephen Waters says:

    Another well researched article – thankyou Wolf!
    Fracking sounds like a really good idea, but there are multiple problems that are not being addressed – Wikipedia gives some insight:

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Sure. But the solution is to reduce demand for this stuff. The solution is NOT to reduce supply, which would only transfer a huge amount of American wealth to a bunch of offshore oil sheiks and oligarchs as energy prices spike through the roof and stay there. People have got to get a handle on it. Reduce demand, that’s the solution! Supply will follow.

      In most developed countries, that’s already happening, in terms of consumption of transportation fuels being on decline as vehicles became more efficient. Demand by the petrochemical industry (plastics, etc.) continues to go up, though.

      • Charles Greenson says:

        “In economics, the Jevons paradox occurs when technological progress increases the efficiency with which a resource is used, but the falling cost of use induces increases in demand enough that resource use is increased, rather than reduced.”

        Good article/charts. However, USA 1970s – CONVENTIONAL oil maximum was reached. 2025 – 2030 UNCONVENTIONAL oil maximum likely reached (fracking, tight oil [good for products with short chain hydrocarbon molecules, plastics, butane, and gasoline, not much below, watch a 5 minute video type in “petroleum cracking”). All over Financial Times, Oil and Gas Journal, Journal of Petroleum Technology, Wall Street Journal…

        This is sh*%ter oil, and it’s going bye bye soon. We’re exploding the source rock, pumping in millions of gallons of fracking fluid to displace the trapped dregs. We’re hooked on the sheiks no matter what. Russias got plenty of the thick stuff……..Kind of makes me wonder about the wars occurring.

        It’s game over Wolf. For real this time. I swear.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          People have been saying the same BS for the entire 12 years that I have been looking at this. Copy and paste. And production just continues to soar, LOL.

        • The Struggler says:

          I have seen up to “500 years” of speculative reserves in the US claimed.

          We have 44 billion of “proven” reserves in the ground.

          The only reason it’s not more is that it costs time and money to “prove” and may never be developed or approved.

          We’re a pretty hard working and innovative country in the process of an onshoring sea change.

          We don’t even want to be dependent on China for cheap plastic crap anymore.

          I believe energy is “solved” in the US. Chips are a more difficult and pending issue IMO.

          BTW: We also have food and (debatably l) water. Not to mention guns and ammo.

          These things can provide the independence and security we desire… IF we can cooperate (uh-oh)

      • Russell says:

        Agreed, Wolf.

        So much of the focus now is on reducing net carbon. However, very little attention is paid to net energy consumption. That is why, even as renewable energy sources increase, fossil fuel consumption does not decrease. Many of the carbon capture/reuse projects we are considering are highly energy intensive. The overall picture needs to be viewed to make improvements with a strong emphasis on efficiency.

  18. Brant Lee says:

    Energy is power in many ways. You can’t run a powerful economy without it. Is the Petrodollar back, more power to preserve the world reserve currency status? Is Steel and a lot more products cheaper to produce in the U.S. than in China now? With nat gas under $2 of course it is. Cheap energy is the key.

    Will the government and Fed take advantage of the energy situation by shoring up the debt on the extra tax revenue? Hell no, now it’s party time, they will increase deficit spending to 3 trillion+ and upperds.

    • Softtail Rider says:

      It seems I read somewhere our debt is now increasing by 1 trillion every three months. So maybe your thoughts are just reversed.

      Back in the 70s oil had been sold for 5 dollars a barrel since many moons before. I worked in refining back then and watched it sky rocket along with the EPA regulations. We also ran some Iraq or Iran crude which was banned but we had purchased the oil before the politics started. Its been almost fifty years so memory is failing.

      Trump doing “Drill Drill Baby Drill” preceded the later high oil prices as the moves bankrupted several Frackers and Drilling companies. Cost me some change but Exxon has returned most.

      Cheap oil has been and may continue to be the lifeblood of the US. We must begin/find another source. I think this will be nuclear fusion for electric generation. But how we get past the opposition must be decided.

      The SPR was I think a dream of Ike and the WWII survivors. It was better to use foreign oil rather than our own. That to me it still seems a good Idea.

      And yes, I did read the article! Just added my two cents.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        “our debt is now increasing by 1 trillion every three months”

        More like $1 trillion every six months. But that’s still HUGE.

  19. WIZ says:

    SO – did we make a mistake shutting down the KEYSTONE pipeline?

    • O’Malley says:

      Keystone phase 1, 2, 3a and 3b are still delivering oil. Keystone phase 4(XL) was stopped.

  20. MM says:

    So much of the economic growth & stock mkt outperformance over the last ~14 years has been attributed to ZIRP and QE – which I don’t necessarily disagree with.

    But I’d wager that the tailwinds from the shale revolution & boom in cheap energy are also responsible. Perhaps that’s why the economy has been resilient even in the face of QT and 5+% rates.

    Having a recession in an economy awash with cheap energy seems unlikely.

  21. Raven says:

    Given that we are the biggest producer of oil now, the rationale for having a strategic reserve of the usual size size does not really exist anymore. Yes, we should have something, but all we need to do is jack production in case of necessity

  22. George B says:

    You are great re: FED, rates, FED’s balance sheet, etc…

    But have been pretty average (or below) re: auto industry, EVs – and now oil.

    Look at total FINI products (commercial oil, SPR, distillates, gasoline – it is at a 20 years low.
    SPR is “refilled” to the tune of several % of what was drained.
    SPR purpose by law is “not to manage market prices” but to be used in an emergency. And there has been no emergency in the last two years (during the drain).

    If you live anywhere outside of an “woke paradise” – people actually LOVE to go to places, travel, explore the country – and do it in comfort! (hint – large vehicles)

    Population continues to grow – and to want to consume and live well.

    So – energy and oil, and gasoline, and distillates consumption will keep increasing – hence the price of oil will keep rising.

    Sorry to puncture your Biden love balloon.

    PS – will keep coming back for articles you are good at – and ignore the ones you are not.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Later today, I will post an article on annual gasoline consumption in the woke US, and it has been going down, woke!!! It’s back to the woke 1990s level, thanks to more efficient woke ICE vehicles and more recently the larger presence of woke EVs. And on a per-capita level, woke gasoline consumption has plunged, and it plunged during the Trump years too, darn wokeness everywhere. So make sure you look at the data later today, LOL.

      Look, sorry, I just cannot take this nonsense seriously anymore. It just makes me smile.

    • MM says:

      “energy and oil, and gasoline, and distillates consumption will keep increasing – hence the price of oil will keep rising.”

      Your analysis leaves out natural gas. Low natgas prices put a ceiling on oil prices.

      Right now natgas is priced like $10/bbl oil. Even LNG with all its associated costs is only around $50/bbl oil equivalent.

  23. Old says:

    Interesting and informative article. Please note however, the key technological advance that led to the revival in U.S. oil and gas production started with the development of horizontal coiled tubing directional drilling.

Comments are closed.