The U.S. is on the road to energy independence, exporting more oil and refined products than it imported last week for the second time.
However, weather may have been a factor behind the fact that U.S. exports outpaced imports, creating a deficit of 162,000 barrels. In government data from last week, there was a large drop in oil imports coming into the country, while exports or crude and other products remained high.
"This happened because crude imports were down so far, primarily due to fog on the Gulf Coast," said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates. "Last week, the Houston ship channel closed due to fog for a significant period."
Crude imports fell to 5.9 million barrels a day from 7.5 million bpd a week earlier. At the same time, there were 3.4 million barrels a day of crude exports from the U.S., down slightly from the record 3.6 million barrels per day, set the week earlier.
The decrease in imports added to the surprise decline in crude inventories, which fell by 8.65 million barrels a day, versus an expected build of 3 million barrels, according to the Energy Information Administration.
The U.S. exported 4.8 million barrels of refined products, like jet fuel, diesel and gasoline.
"There's no doubt that crude oil exports were still at a very high level. I do expect we're going to continue to see high levels of exports," Lipow said. Energy analysts expect the U.S. to at some point become a net exporter of crude and refined products on a consistent basis, but not yet.
U.S. oil production continues to grow, rising to a record 12.1 million barrels a day last week, after crossing the 12 million barrels a day level for the first time the week before.
"North America, including the US, Canada, and Mexico, is becoming a new Middle East, in terms of size and growth of its liquids surplus,," wrote Citigroup energy analysts.
A year ago, the U.S was producing about 10.3 million barrels a day.
U.S. government data only goes back to 1973, but according to other data, the U.S. was a net exporter 75 years ago. The U.S. was a net exporter of 211,000 barrels a day, in the week of Nov. 18.