US Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) forecasts that China’s net oil imports will exceed those of the US by October 2013 on a monthly basis and by 2014 on an annual basis, 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 US market, says the Administration.
US total annual oil production is expected to rise by 28% between 2011 and 2014 to nearly 13 million barrels per day, primarily from shale oil, tight oil, and Gulf of Mexico deepwater plays. In the meantime, Chinese production increases at a much lower rate (6% over this period) and is forecast to be just a third of US production in 2014.
On the demand side, China’s liquid fuels use is expected to grow by 13% between 2011 and 2014 to more than 11 million barrels per day while US demand hovers close to 18.7 million barrels per day, well below the peak US consumption level of 20.8 million barrels per day in 2005.
Looking beyond 2014, EIA notes that higher US oil production and stagnant or declining US oil consumption, coupled with China’s projected strong oil demand growth and slow oil production growth, suggest that once China replaces the US as the world’s largest net oil importer, the gap between net oil imports in China and the US will grow.