U.S. Gulf Coast crude oil exports to touch record high this quarter

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The Houston Ship Channel and adjacent refineries, part of the Port of Houston, are seen in Houston, Texas, U.S., May 5, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/File Photo

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HOUSTON, June 27 (Reuters) - Exports of crude oil from the U.S. Gulf Coast could hit a record 3.3 million barrels per day (bpd) this quarter, analysts said on Monday, as Europe chases U.S. crude to offset sanctioned Russian oil.

U.S. exports have risen in the last three months, helped by Washington's decision to release 180 million barrels of oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which have flooded the domestic market.

Exports to Europe are expected to average about 1.4 million (bpd) this quarter, about 30% higher than the year-ago quarter, while export to Asia is set to drop to under 1 million bpd, according to energy data firm Kpler.

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The higher purchases by European buyers have more than offset the decline in flows to Asian countries, which have been buying heavily discounted Russian crude.

"The 1.53 million bpd of U.S. crude exports to Europe recorded in April is the second-highest reading on record," said Viktor Katona, co-head of crude analysis at Kpler. He said the figure illustrates "a very strong pull in the immediate aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine."

Tight U.S. refining capacity also boosted exports, Rystad Energy analysts noted. The United States has lost nearly 1 million bpd of refining capacity since 2020.

"It's no surprise that government intervention to support crude supplies has resulted in an increase in exports," said Artem Abramov, head of shale research at Rystad Energy.

Throughput via the Port of Corpus Christi has increased by more than 150,000 bpd to reach 1.86 million bpd. Port of Houston exports also have been rising since the third quarter of last year, but remain below pre-pandemic levels, Rystad added.

"The call on U.S. crude could go even higher, if additional restrictions like secondary sanctions are implemented" against Russia, said energy strategist Clay Seigle, citing Vortexa data.

Crude exports will continue to grow and approach 4 million bpd in the first three months of 2023, Rystad estimates.

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Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in Houston Editing by Matthew Lewis

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