U.S. crude oil imports tumble

U.S. crude-oil imports fell to the lowest level in almost 16 years as domestic output rose, the Energy Information Administration reported.

Shipments of foreign crude fell 1.1 percent to 7.41 million barrels a day, the fewest since January 1998, based on the four- week average through Dec. 27, according to data released Friday by the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm. U.S. crude output surged to a 25-year high on rising production from shale formations.

“Imports are falling because we can produce more oil now,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy &Economic Research in Winchester, Mass. “That can save us tons of money and is good for the economy.”

Fracking and horizontal drilling have boosted shale oil output from the Bakken formation in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas. Domestic production increased to 8.12 million barrels a day last week, the most since September 1988. Output surpassed imports in October for the first time since 1995, according to the EIA.

Net imports were 7.35 million barrels a day, the least in data through November 2001, the EIA said. On a weekly basis, imports decreased 0.5 percent to 7.5 million on Dec. 27 after falling to 6.86 million on Dec. 6, the least since January 2000.

Exports of refinery products averaged 3.49 million barrels a day in the four weeks to Dec. 27, the most in data through 1991, the EIA said.

U.S. oil demand slid 7.2 percent in the week ended Dec. 27 to 19 million barrels a day, the EIA said. Consumption reached a five-year high of 21 million in the week ended Dec. 13.

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed for the first time in four months in October, the Commerce Department said Dec. 4. The petroleum deficit shrank to $10.5 billion from $11 billion the prior month after adjusting for inflation. The department will release November trade data on Jan. 7.

The U.S., the world’s biggest oil user, consumed about 18.6 million barrels a day of oil in 2012, or about one-fifth of the global total, according to BP Plc’s Statistical Review of World Energy.

Crude futures slid $1.48, or 1.6 percent, to $93.96 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was the lowest settlement since Dec. 2.

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