China Imports More Oil Than U.S. for First Time Ever

Press Release
Wednesday, March 27, 2013

China reached this milestone in December 2012, as its net petroleum imports surpassed those of the U.S.

In a recent press release NYC-based PIRA Energy Group reports that weak reported oil demand in the U.S. reduced the commercial stock draw. In Japan, crude runs began to ease, which built crude stocks. Specifically, PIRA’s analysis of the oil market fundamentals has revealed the following:

Every year for at least the last two decades, Chinese oil demand has increased in both absolute and relative terms, that is, as a percent of world total demand. Since the price spike of 2008 and the following recession, U.S. oil demand has been declining in both absolute and relative terms, for all years except 2010. This, coupled with growing U.S. oil production, has led to a downward trend in U.S. net oil imports, while Chinese net oil imports continue to grow inexorably. December 2012 was the first time Chinese net imports exceeded U.S. net imports, and this trend will continue to grow for years to come.

Weak Reported Demand Reduces U.S. Stock Draw

Overall U.S. commercial oil inventories fell the week ending March 15. Most of the draw was in crude oil, largely due to an Alaskan in-transit inventory decline, which offset a crude stock build in PADDs I-III. Reported product demand fell on the week, while weather adjusted demand and actual exports were down. Despite the small overall inventory decline, the year-on-year stock excess narrowed.

International Tanker Markets Remain Weak
International tanker markets remain weak, although a drop in bunker prices over the past month has helped improve vessel earnings somewhat. VLCC rates recovered modestly from early February after falling to the lowest level in more than two years as tonnage demand suffered when Saudi Arabia and the other Middle East Gulf producers cut exports in January. The product tanker sector in the Atlantic Basin, which had been the sweet spot among the tanker groups ever since Hurricane Sandy struck in November of last year, fell sharply.

Click here for additional information on PIRA's research services.

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