The U.S. imported the least amount of crude oil on a weekly basis in 23 years, as OPEC-members Saudi Arabia and Venezuela cut their shipments to unusually low levels.
Weekly crude imports fell 1.61 million barrels a day to 5.92 million, the lowest level since 1996. Weekly imports from Saudi Arabia fell to 346,000 barrels a day for the week ending Feb. 22, the Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday. Domestic crude production skyrocketed to 12.1 million barrels a day.
The fall in imports comes as Venezuelan oil shipments drop due to U.S. sanctions against the government of Nicolas Maduro, and as Saudi Arabia curtails exports to the U.S. in an effort to reduce an oil glut in America. American crude stockpiles fell 8.65 million barrels last week.
Saudi Arabia Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said earlier that the Saudis are leaning toward extending oil-output cuts into the second half of this year. His remarks came after U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted this week that oil prices are too high and called on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to relax production curbs. Last year, the Saudis boosted production to record levels after Trump expressed displeasure at rising prices.
Al-Falih has said he expects oil markets to balance by April.
Using a 4-week average, U.S. imports of Saudi crude dropped to the lowest since May 1987. Saudi production collapsed between 1985 and 1986, at one point flirting with the 2 million barrel-a-day mark, as the kingdom lowered its production to defend higher oil prices.
Wednesday’s report showed the U.S. became a net exporter of crude oil and refined products for the second week in recent history.