US crude oil exports hit a record last week at 3.6 million barrels a day

Key Points
  • U.S. crude oil exports hit an all-time high as output from the nation's shale fields continues to surge.
  • Preliminary weekly figures show U.S. production hitting a record 12 million barrels per day last week.
  • The nation notched the new record around the time that China was expected to receive its first crude imports from U.S. in months.
The Eagle Ford crude oil tanker sails out of the the NuStar Energy dock at the Port of Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016.
Eddie Seal | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The United States exported a record amount of crude oil last week, as output from the nation's shale fields continues to surge.

The nation shipped out just over 3.6 million barrels a day in the week through Feb. 15, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That easily topped the previous all-time high of 3.2 million bpd set in November.

Also last week, U.S. production hit a record 12 million bpd. The reading is subject to significant revision, but this is the first time EIA's weekly report has shown American output hitting the threshold. The weekly reading has been hovering at 11.9 million bpd for the last five weeks.

Much of that growing output is coming from U.S. shale fields, where drillers use advanced methods to squeeze crude oil and natural gas from rock formations. On Tuesday, EIA forecast output from seven major U.S. shale fields will rise by 84,000 bpd next month to 8.4 million bpd.

The U.S. notched the new export record despite China halting imports of American crude in recent months amid a trade dispute with Washington. China had emerged as the biggest buyer of U.S. oil prior to that.

Shipping data indicates that China was scheduled to receive its first cargoes of crude oil from the U.S. in months around Feb. 17, but it was not immediately clear if those shipments were baked into last week's figures.

To be sure, weekly U.S. exports rise and fall by wide margins from week to week.

The U.S. will start consistently exporting more crude oil and petroleum products than it imports at the end of next year, EIA recently forecast.