At 8.5 million barrels per day (bbl/d), U.S. crude oil imports in 2012 were the lowest for any year since 1997, as growing domestic crude oil production drove a 444,000 bbl/d (5.0 percent) decline from the 2011 import level. With refinery runs remaining relatively high, U.S. refiners are running an increasing amount of domestically produced crude oil. However, the crude oil import reduction trend is not geographically uniform. Most of the decline in imported crude oil occurred in the Gulf Coast and East Coast regions, while Midwest imports rose (Figure 1).
Since peaking in 2005 at 10.1 million bbl/d, U.S. crude oil imports fell in six of the subsequent seven years, amounting to a total decline of more than 1.6 million bbl/d (16.1 percent). Over the same period, net crude runs at U.S. refineries fell only 200,000 bbl/d (1.4 percent). As a result, imports represented 57 percent of crude oil run in U.S. refineries in 2012, down from 67 percent in 2005.
Reductions in the use of imported crude oil were most apparent along the Gulf Coast, home to about half of the nation's refining capacity. Imported crude runs in this region were 4.5 million bbl/d in 2012, representing 58 percent of total crude runs, down from 80 percent in 2005. EIA's weekly data indicate that that trend is continuing and accelerating in 2013. Average Gulf Coast crude oil imports for the four weeks ending March 1 dropped below 3.4 million bbl/d, the lowest four-week average since 1992.
From 2005 to 2012, East Coast refinery runs of imported crude decreased 735,000 bbl/d (46 percent). That decrease was almost matched by a 685,000 bbl/d decrease in overall East Coast crude runs. Recently, the large price differentials between landlocked crudes with growing production, such as Bakken, and global seaborne crudes that are linked to the price of Brent have encouraged refiners to bring more domestically produced crude into the region via rail. In 2012, 92 percent of crude oil run in East Coast refineries was imported, down from 99 percent in 2005.
Opposite this trend, the Midwest has been importing significantly more crude oil since 2005. In 2012, runs of imported crude oil reached 1.7 million bbl/d, an increase of 205,000 bbl/d (14 percent). In 2005, almost 34 percent of imported crude oil run in the Midwest was shipped to the Midwest via another region, most commonly by pipeline from the Gulf Coast; however, by 2012, nearly all imported crude processed in the Midwest was imported directly from Canada. While total U.S. crude imports have been decreasing, imports from Canada have gone up 775,000 bbl/d since 2005. The United States imported 2.4 million bbl/d of Canadian crude oil in 2012, or about 28 percent of total U.S. crude imports.