Saudi Arabia’s oil exports to the U.S. more than double in March

Saudi Arabia’s oil exports to the U.S. more than doubled from February to March as oil prices plunged and American shale producers reeled over collapsing demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, data from analytics firm TankerTrackers.com showed Friday.

Saudi crude shipments to American ports surged from an average of 366,000 barrels per day (bpd) in February to 829,540 bpd in March — a multiple of 2.27.

For March, that means Saudi Arabia had shipped around 25 million barrels of crude to the U.S., an unprecedented level not seen since December 2018.

The data from TankerTrackers.com shows that figure is on track to be surpassed again this month.

Satellite tracking of VLCCs, the vessels that transport crude, showed a whopping 1.46 million barrels per day of Saudi oil shipped to the U.S. during the first two weeks of April alone — four times higher from February’s daily volume and even the highest since 2014.

The majority of tankers went to the Gulf Coast, with smaller amounts going to Californian ports.

According to Saudi state oil producer Aramco’s website, the company was loading 15 tankers for its international customers on April 1 — just one day before the OPEC production cut agreement with its oil-producing allies, OPEC+, expired — supplying the tankers with a whopping 18.8 million barrels in a single day.

“Towards the end of March I saw massive boosts in gas flaring in the fields in the Eastern Province, so they went pedal to the metal and pumped out as much as possible,” Samir Madani, founder of TankerTrackers.com, told CNBC.

“It lit up like a Christmas tree, the whole Eastern Province, all the flares just came back online.” Madani added.

Ahead of the April 1 expiration of the previous OPEC+ production cut agreement, Saudi Arabia reduced its official selling prices (OSP) to its customers. At the same time, Saudi barrels headed to its top buyer, China, likely had to be re-routed due to China’s full lockdown made to control the spread of the coronavirus in the country.