The upheaval in global crude oil markets and the boom in shale oil production in North America brought scrutiny on the US export ban for crude oil from 1975. The ban was eventually lifted in early 2016. This paper examines the shifts of global trade flows and strategic refinery investments in a spatial, game-theoretic partial equilibrium model. We consider detailed oil supply chain infrastructure with multiple crude oil types, distinct oil products, as well as specific refinery configurations and modes of transport. Prices, quantities produced and consumed, as well as infrastructure and refining capacity investments are endogenous to the model. We compare two scenarios: an insulated US crude oil market, and a counter-factual with lifted export restrictions.We find a significant expansion of US sweet crude exports with the lift of the export ban. In the US refinery sector, more (imported) heavy sour crude is transformed. Countries importing US sweet crude gain from higher product output, while avoiding costly refinery investments. Producers of heavy sour crude (e.g. the Middle East) are incentivised to climb up the value chain to defend their market share and maintain their dominant position.
Keywords: Energy system model; Crude oil market; US crude export ban; Refining capacity; Infrastructure investment