The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday that U.S. crude exports have continued to rise since restrictions were lifted last year.
According to data seen by the EIA, U.S. crude oil exports averaged 501,000 barrels per day in the first five months of 2016, a 9 percent gain over the full-year 2015 daily average.
President Barack Obama lifted a 40-year-old ban on U.S. crude exports in December 2015.
The ban was first enacted in response to the Arab Oil Embargo in 1975.
The decision was a victory for U.S. producers who can now ship light, sweet crude to international markets that are better equipped to process light crude.
While lifting the ban has boosted export levels, U.S. crude exports were already growing significantly before the restrictions were rolled back.
From 2000 to 2013, U.S. crude exports rarely reached over 100,000 bpd.
However, by 2015 U.S. producers were exporting 422,000 bpd to Canada and 26,000 bpd to five other countries, the EIA said.
U.S. crude exports to countries other than Canada surged ahead of exports to Canada during March and May of 2016.
The EIA found that total crude oil exports to countries other than Canada hit 259,000 bpd in March, or 10,000 bpd more than exports levels to Canada.
In May, total U.S. crude exports to countries other than Canada climbed to 354,000 bpd, or 46,000 bpd above export levels to Canada.
The agency found that U.S. crude oil exports have continued despite “relatively small price spreads between international crude oils and domestic crude oils” along with falling U.S. production and growing cargo export costs.
Other than Canada, Curacao was the largest and most consistent destination for exported U.S. crude oil export during the first five months of 2016.
Curacao is an island nation located in the Caribbean Sea north of Venezuela.
Venezuela’s PDVSA operates the 330,000 bpd Isla refinery in Curacao.
U.S. crude exports to Curacao were averaging 54,000 bpd through May of this year.
Trade press reports seen by the EIA suggest that the U.S. crude exports to Curacao are likely being used as diluent that is blended with heavy Venezuelan crude.
The EIA added that the U.S. crude exports are likely either blended with heavy Venezuelan crude for processing at the Isla refinery or are used for re-export to PVDSA customers.
The Netherlands was the second largest recipient of U.S. crude exports, receiving an average of 39,000 bpd this year.
Japan, Italy and the Marshall Islands rounded out the top five largest recipients of U.S. crude exports this year, with each receiving over 13,000 bpd.
The EIA added that the continued growth of U.S. crude exports will “likely depend on increases in U.S. crude oil production and significantly wider price differences between domestic and international crude oils.”