U.S. operable atmospheric crude oil distillation capacity increased 0.9% during 2019, reaching a record of 19.0 million barrels per calendar day (b/d), up 0.2 million b/d from the previous record of 18.8 million b/d the year before. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) annual Refinery Capacity Report, U.S. operable crude oil distillation unit (CDU) capacity has increased slightly in seven of the past eight years.
As the United States has increased crude oil production over the past decade, the average density of U.S. crude oil has become lighter. Because U.S. refineries imported less of the crude oil they processed and replaced imports with domestically produced crude oil, the average API gravity—a measure of a crude oil’s density where higher numbers mean lower density—of crude oil inputs to refineries increased. For example, the U.S. Gulf Coast, which is home to about half of U.S. refining capacity, used imported crude oil for only 28% of its crude oil inputs to refineries during 2019, down from 69% in 2010.