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Nearly two years after the U.S. removed restrictions on exporting crude oil, crude and refined petroleum product exports are booming, the Department of Energy reported Wednesday, Oct. 18. 

Crude oil exports in the first half of 2017 increased by more than 300,000 barrels per day, a 56% increase over the first half of 2016, to 784,000 barrels per day. 

Petroleum product exports also grew in the first half, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration suggested both crude and refined products reached record highs during the frame. 

Crude oil and refined products futures were all climbing on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday, with West Texas Intermediate up to $52.24 a barrel and gasoline up to $163.71 a gallon around 9:30 a.m.

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The U.S. government lifted restrictions on exporting crude oil in December 2015, and since then, total volumes of exports and the number of destinations for those exports increased -- the U.S. exported crude to 26 countries in the first half of the year versus the 17 countries it exported crude to in the first of 2016. 

Canada is still the largest importer of U.S. crude with 248,000 barrels of oil making its way across the northern border each day, but that number is down by 46,000 barrels per day from the first half of 2016, the EIA said. 

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Meanwhile, Mexico remains the largest importer of U.S. distillates --  hydrocarbon solvents produced from crude oil such as gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel and diesel. About 17%, or 223,000 barrels per day, of total distillate exports were sent across the United States' southern border into Mexico, the agency reported. Brazil and Netherlands followed on Mexico's heels. 

Mexico received more than half of total U.S. gasoline exports, which averaged a record high of 756,000 barrels per day in the first half of 2017, a 3% increase over the same period last year. 

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According to the EIA, recent market reforms in Mexico, which allow entities other than state-owned Pemex to import petroleum products, may have contributed to the recent growth in Mexico's gasoline imports from the United States.

And Mexico's refinery output has slipped since 2015, leading to declining domestic petroleum product inventories. The country experienced unexpected refinery outages in the first half of 2017, and subsequently U.S. exports of gasoline to Mexico in the first half increased by 27,000 barrels per day over the same period in 2016.

Finally, U.S. propane exports reached a record high of 913,000 barrels per day in the first half, up from 793,000 barrels per day in the first half of 2016. Asian markets are accountable for the bulk of this surge, said the EIA, which estimates 76% of the propane export growth comes from Asian markets, where the majority of propane destination countries reside. 

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