U.S. Gulf Gets Least Crude in Decades as Iraqi Imports Dive

Graphic: Bloomberg L.P.

By Sheela Tobben (Bloomberg) — The U.S. Gulf Coast imported the least amount of crude in nearly three decades as shipments from Iraq plummeted and congestion lingered on a critical waterway weeks after a blaze and chemical spill at the Intercontinental Terminals Co. tank farm.

The Gulf Coast took just 1.4 million barrels a day of crude last week as Iraqi oil imports fell to a trickle of only 5,000 barrels a day, according to weekly preliminary government data. That’s the lowest amount since August 2015 when the OPEC producer shipped nothing its U.S. buyers.

The reduced Iraqi shipments caused deliveries from OPEC’s top six suppliers to fall below 1 million barrels a day for the first time in data going back to 2010.

ITC’s petroleum and chemical tank farm caught fire mid-March resulting in shipping restrictions on part of the Houston Ship Channel, a critical waterway for the petroleum industry. Two weekends ago, the same channel was shut again because of a severe storm, but it resumed traffic with restrictions the next day.

OPEC and its partners have entered into a pact to reduce crude supply in an effort to cut inventories. The group’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia has been targeting the U.S. for most its cuts, even sending Saudi Aramco-owned Motiva Enterprises LLC no crude in January. That may change if President Trump has called for more supply because of rising international crude prices.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P