What is West Texas Intermediate?
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil is the underlying commodity of the New York Mercantile Exchange's oil futures contracts. Light, sweet crude oil is commonly referred to as "oil" in the Western world. WTI is considered a "sweet" crude because it is about 0.24% sulfur, which is a lower concentration than North Sea Brent crude. WTI is high quality oil that is easily refined.
Understanding West Texas Intermediate (WTI)
WTI crude oil is produced, refined and consumed in North America. It is lighter and sweeter than the other major oil benchmarks: Brent crude and Dubai crude.
WTI crude oil is important because it is an oil benchmark. The significance of a benchmark in the oil market is that benchmarks serve as a reference price for buyers and sellers of crude oil. Oil benchmarks are frequently quoted in the media as the price of oil. Although there are many different varieties of crude oil, there are three primary benchmarks: WTI, North Sea Brent crude, often referred to simply as Brent crude, and Dubai crude. Brent crude and WTI crude are the most popular benchmarks, and their prices are often contrasted. The difference in price between Brent and WTI is called the Brent-WTI spread. Theoretically, WTI crude should trade at a premium to Brent crude, but this is not always the case. While the two crude oil varieties can trade at similar price points, each one has its own unique supply and demand market, and therefore its price reflects its individual market fundamentals.
WTI crude oil is produced in America. It is actually a blend of several U.S. domestic streams of light sweet crude oils. WTI is produced in different areas of the United States and refined mostly in the Midwest and Gulf Coast regions. The major trading hub for WTI is Cushing, Oklahoma. Cushing is the delivery point for crude contracts, and it is the price settlement point for WTI. WTI crude oil flows into Cushing from all points of the United States and then flows outbound through pipelines.
Even though WTI is the highest-quality light sweet crude available, it is not the most used oil. That title goes to Brent crude. WTI's market is primarily the United States. This is partially due to an export ban on U.S. crude oil, which was reversed in late 2015. Even though exports of WTI can now occur, transporting WTI overseas to Brent crude's market could come at a cost that would make WTI unable to compete with Brent crude in terms of pricing.