A Small Country Playing a Big Role

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Ecuador, who recently pulled out of OPEC, is playing a key role in the downstream sector on the U.S. west coast, as rising exports to the region make it one of the area’s main crude suppliers.

Last year, Ecuador’s crude oil exports averaged around 425,000 barrels per day, the fastest annual pace on our records. Roughly 60% of these exports were medium sour Oriente, while the remaining barrels were heavy sour Napo. The US, Panama and Chile are the main importers of Ecuadorian crude, accounting for over 70% of barrels. Panamanian offtake, however, is mainly at a lightering zone where ship-to-ship transfers occur, and some of those barrels end up in the U.S. anyway.

Most Ecuadorian crude to the U.S. ends up on the west coast. Last year, it accounted for some 164,000 bpd of barrels, making it the second-largest supplier to the region, behind only Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, some 27,000 bpd of Napo crude was imported into the US Gulf Coast, where Ecuador has a much smaller presence – but it has seen its prominence grow in the last year amid the absence of heavy sour Venezuelan barrels.

Nevertheless, the South American country depends on the import of refined products from the U.S. for its domestic market. In 2019, Ecuador imported some 31,000 bpd of gasoline and 29,000 bpd of middle distillates from the U.S.

Finally, even after a turbulent October following social uprisings sparked by the hike in fuel prices and the force majeure of the Trans-Ecuadorean Pipeline System (SOTE), the country’s main pipeline, Ecuador maintained steady crude oil exports in the last few months of the year, a trend we expect to continue in this 2020.