The Top Five Texas Exports By Freight Volume in 2020

When you think of Port of Houston do you think of imports or exports?  Considering that Houston is the largest volume TEU logistical hub in the Gulf of Mexico, you may think it is all about the imports.  Vessels coming from Europe (EMEA) or China and other APAC countries.

But did you know that the Port of Houston is actually the largest port for exports in the country?   The U.S. Census Bureau states that Texas is the biggest exporter out of all states and territories. In 2018 alone, Texas exported about 18% of the total state economic output. 

California came in second that year, but no where near as close to commodity import values.  Texas managed the export of $330 billion worth of goods in 2018.  California processed $173 billion in goods through its (second most) busy ports.  And if you were to guess the top export commodity from Texas, it wouldn’t be hard to guess “oil and gas”. 

But there are some changes happening in terms of the American exports most in demand overseas. The finished goods or raw materials ordered by major manufacturing centers across the world.  And if you live in Houston or have visited our Port, you know it is an unending line of trucks and containers.  But what is inside all those containers?

As our state economy matures and grows, there is a diversification of products  that are exported. Some are manufactured or produced in Texas.  Other containers are trucked in from Arkansas, Oklahoma or New Mexico based factories, food producers, chemical manufacturers and more.

Here is our list of the five most common exports you’ll see heading out to sea, through Port of Houston Texas.   Thanks to an army of qualified truck drivers from Houston and the surrounding areas.

1. Crude Petroleum Oils (17.5%)

Black gold. Sludge.  Texas is oil town for much of the state.  Our kids grow up counting the oil wells on any family trip. That is because our state has a wealth of oil reserves that rival other major international oil producers.  But did you know that more than nine products can be produced from crude petroleum oil?

The most common type of crude oil exported are API gravity dense crudes. Those barrels of crude oil can be exported to countries that want to produce:

  • Gasoline
  • Distillates (like diesel fuel and heating oils)
  • Jet fuel
  • Petrochemical feedstocks
  • Waxes
  • Lubricating Oils
  • Asphalt

In 2019, in the United States alone, over 7.5 billion barrels of crude oil were consumed domestically.  Texas produced 5.07 million barrels per day in 2019. The state of Texas broke a historical record however, in December 2019, when 5.35 million barrels were produced. Thanks to the increase in production from the Permian Basin, 660 million more barrels of crude oil were produced in Texas in 2019, compared to the previous year.

Crude petroleum oil exports through Texas account for an average of just under $60 billion annually and represent approximately 17.5% of total exports from the Lonestar State.

2. Miscellaneous and Light Petroleum Oils (48.1%)

We know, you are probably thinking this belongs in the previous category.  But light petroleum and miscellaneous oils are used for different purposes.  This category includes lube refining byproducts (aromatic extracts and tars), ram-jet fuel, petroleum rocket fuels, petrolatum, synthetic natural gasfeedstocks and other specialty oils.

The two specialty categories of oil account for 48.1% of all annual exports in Texas, with an average value of approximately $48 billion dollars per year.  The state of Texas exports more light petroleum oils because the majority of our domestic refineries are tooled for heavy crude processing.

3. Liquified Propane Exports (3.2%)

Liquified Propane (LPG)  is a fast growing commodity and export for Texas.  The United States currently leads the world in LPG production and export.  The liquified propane is used for a variety of different purposes.

Global demand for LPG is sourced for the following sectors:

Graph: World Energy Consultants, LLC.

4. Aircraft Parts and Engines (3.1%)

The global pandemic has meant a substantial decrease in air travel. This has had a reverberating effect on the demand for new airplanes, and parts for production and maintenance.  Did you know that the U.S. export of civilian aircraft parts was $6.05 billion in October 2020?  And that figure represented a decrease of -42.20% from October of 2019.

American airport parts and component manufacturers export predominantly to China, Germany and France.  Civilian aircraft parts represent the highest value exports and are ranked first out of more than 1,260 commodity export classifications.   Behind passenger vehicle exports and soybeans.

5. Computer Parts and Accessories Exports  (3%)

Texas is growing the state technology manufacturing sector rapidly.  In fact, many major technological companies are making an exodus from California, and moving here to Texas.  Who can blame them? With a young and trained workforce, affordable labor and cost of living, friendly corporate tax rates and access to the best high-volume import and export logistics, it’s no surprise.

For decades, American manufacturers have relied on technology parts and components imported from Asian pacific countries.  Not only are we rapidly expanding our ability to supply our own domestic manufacturers, but we have a surplus. 

Tesla announced it was moving its headquarters officially to Texas and out of Silicon Valley.  Elon Musk has himself relocated to Austin to oversee new production projects in our state.  And now Oracle has announced that it will also move its headquarters to Texas.  Like Tesla, the tech giant will be relocating to Austin, Texas.

Texas exports approximately $9.8 billion annually, or 3.1% of total state exports, in computer parts and components.  Expect Texas to continue to grow as a hub of exporting computer parts and accessories by vessel freight.

Other Miscellaneous Product or Material Categories Exported Through Texas

What other kinds of products or materials round out the top ten exports from Texas?  One of the surprising growth sectors (because Texas Got It Right!) is technology and components.  From integrated circuits, processors and controllers (2.7%) to modems and reception/transmission devices (1.3%).

California has become a very expensive place for manufacturers and raw materials processors to call home.  The business exodus from California has been going on for years.  And that’s just fine, because here in Texas, we like business growth.  And our state leaders are trying to diversity our exports and manufactured goods.  To move away from being 100% reliant on oil and gas products for export volume.

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