A recent Short-Term Energy Outlook issued by the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts China’s net oil imports was expected to exceed those of the United States on a monthly basis by October 2013 and on an annual basis by 2014, making China the largest importer of oil in the world.
The imminent emergence of China as the world’s largest net oil importer has been driven by steady growth in Chinese demand, increased oil production in the United States and a flat level of demand for oil in the U.S. market.
U.S. total annual oil production is expected to rise by 28 percent between 2011 and 2014 to nearly 13 million bpd, primarily from shale oil, tight oil and Gulf of Mexico deepwater plays. In the meantime, Chinese production increases at a much lower rate (6 percent during this period) and is forecast to be just a third of U.S. production in 2014.
On the demand side, China’s liquid fuels use is expected to grow by 13 percent between 2011 and 2014 to more than 11 million bpd while U.S. demand hovers close to 18.7 million bpd, well below the peak U.S. consumption level of 20.8 million bpd in 2005.
Looking beyond 2014, higher U.S. oil production and stagnant or declining U.S. oil consumption, coupled with China’s projected strong oil demand growth and slow oil production growth, suggest once China replaces the United States as the world’s largest net oil importer, the gap between net oil imports in China and the United States will grow.
Net oil imports reflect the broadest measure of liquid fuels and include the following elements in the volumes of oil liquids produced and used within national borders: crude oil, lease condensates, natural gas liquids, biofuels, other liquids and refinery processing gain, which in the United States has been roughly 1 million bpd in recent years.