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China well on way to being largest oil importer

(China Daily)

08:35, March 07, 2013

A crude oil depot facility in Ningbo, Zhejiang province. China's net crude oil imports were 5.40 million barrels a day in 2012, and the country could soon overtake the United States as the largest oil importer in the world. Zhang Heping / For China Daily

China could overtake the United States as the world's largest oil importer earlier than expected, while US net oil imports continue to drop due to its booming domestic supply - a remarkable shift between the world's two largest energy consumers.

Some Chinese experts predict that China will become the biggest oil importer in 2015, but that may come even earlier, given the rapid transformation, said Niu Li, a senior economist with the State Information Center, a government think tank.

In 2012, China's net oil imports were still lower than the US' by about 1 million barrels a day, but in some months, China was closer or even surpassed the US in oil imports, he said.

China's net crude oil imports were 5.40 million barrels a day in 2012, according to the General Administration of Customs.

In the same period, US average oil imports were 7.41 million barrels a day, according to the US Energy Information Administration, but the US data also include imports of petroleum products.

In December, US net oil imports dropped to 5.98 million barrels a day from 8.10 million in January, according to the EIA. China's net imports of crude oil and petroleum products surpassed 6 million barrels a day in the same month.

A single month's figure cannot tell the whole story, but it shows the trend, and China is on track to be the biggest oil importer, Niu said.

"It's merely a matter of time," he said.

China's increasing dependence on imported oil has threatened the country's energy security, experts said.

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