EIA: China set to top U.S. as world's biggest oil importer


EIA: China set to top U.S. as world's biggest oil importer

NEW YORK -- China is poised to top the U.S. as the world's biggest importer of oil in October and will hold the ranking for all of 2014, forecasters at the federal Energy Information Administration said Friday.

The switch comes as the U.S., the world's biggest oil consumer, is experiencing steady oil demand and surging crude oil production from shale-oil fields, sharply reducing the need for imports. China, the second-biggest oil consumer, is showing robust growth and an increasing need for foreign oil, evident in Thursday's figures showing record-high crude-oil imports in July that were 20% above the same period in 2012.

Rising U.S. oil output in October is projected to top the level of crude-oil imports for the first time since February 1995, the EIA said in its monthly short-term energy outlook released Tuesday.

"Since reaching 12.5 million barrels per day in 2005, total U.S. liquid fuel net imports, including crude oil, have been falling and are expected to average less than 6 million barrels per day next year," Adam Sieminski, the EIA administrator, said in a statement released with Tuesday's outlook.

Net liquid fuel imports are defined as total liquid fuels consumption, minus domestic production of crude oil, lease condensates, natural-gas liquids, biofuels, other liquids, and refinery processing gain, the EIA said.

The EIA projects rising output from shale-oil fields will boost U.S. output by 14% this year, to 7.4 MMbopd, the highest level since 1991. A further jump of 11.4% is expected in 2014, pushing output to 8.24 MMbopd, the most since 1987.

In October of this year, the EIA projects U.S. oil demand will average 18.61 million barrels a day, a slim 0.6% below the year earlier level. At the same time, U.S. liquids fuel supply, led by rising oil output, will total 12.38 MMbopd, a year-on-year rise of 7.5%. Net imports in October are expected to fall by 13.5%, to 6.23 MMbopd.

In China, meantime, the EIA sees October demand rising 2% year on year to top 11 million barrels a day for the first time ever. China's fuel supply, will rise by just over 80,000 barrels a day, leaving a gap of nearly 140,000 bopd to be met by higher imports. China's net liquid fuels imports in October of 6.45 MMbopd a day will top the U.S. level for the month by 3.5%, or nearly 215,000 bopd.

The U.S. and China nearly reached parity on net imports at around 6 MMbopd in December, the EIA said.

In 2014, the U.S. net imports average is expected to drop 12%, to 5.57 MMbopd, the lowest since 1986. China's net imports in 2014 are expected to rise 6.1%, to 6.57 MMbopd, surpassing the U.S. by 1 MMbpd, or 18%, the EIA data show.

As U.S. oil demand growth slowed, in part because increased efficiency, including improved vehicle fuel mileage, the U.S. has becoming an increasingly larger net exporter of petroleum products. The EIA projects U.S. net exports of refined petroleum products will climb to a record 1.54 MMbopd this month, as domestic demand drops to its lowest August level in four years.

Dow Jones Newswires

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