Oil imports increase in major consumption areas

US crude oil imports were on average 9.41 mbd during the first seven months of 2003, up 4.8% on the same period in 2002 and also up 2.4% on the same period in 2001 when US crude oil imports were higher than for 2002. Thus 2003 looks set to be a record year for US crude oil imports, with May and July’s monthly crude oil imports edging above 10 mbd. 10 years ago crude oil imports were about 7 mbd.

US product imports are also increasing following the 2002 downturn. For the first seven months of 2003, product imports were 2.69 mbd, up 16.8% on the same period in 2002 and up 1.9% on the same period in 2001. 2001 saw strong US product imports, but 2003 may break this record.

European crude oil imports for the first half of 2003 were 12.51 mbd on average, up 0.9% on the same period in 2002 and up 1.1% on the same period in 2001. During recent years, European crude oil imports have tended to be stronger in the second half of the year than in the first half, so the 2003 figure could increase further. Historically, European crude oil imports reached the highest level so far of 12.95 mbd in 1998 and have levelled off and remained around 12.5-12.6 mbd since.

European product imports were 4.98 mbd during the first half of 2003, down 1.1% on the same period in 2002, but up 4.5% on the same period in 2001. European product imports had a steady growth in the period 1995 to 2001, but have remained rather flat at about 4.9-5.0 mbd since.

Japanese crude oil imports were on average 4.57 mbd during the first seven months of 2003, up 15.1% on the same period in 2002 and up 6.6% on the same period in the year 2001. Japanese crude oil imports had a good growth pattern in the period 1990 to 1997, which saw the highest annual imports so far of 5.05 mbd. Since 1997 crude oil imports have slowly declined, except for in 2001 and now 2003 (first seven months).

Japanese product imports are not very high and have fluctuated in the region 0.5 to 0.7 mbd in the last 10 years. For the first six months of 2003, Japanese product imports were 0.7 mbd, up 18% on the same period in 2002 and up 9% on the same period in 2001.

Click here for US, European and Japanese oil imports in tables and graphs.

But to see the really big increases, look at China’s oil imports. China is becoming a major importer both of crude oil and oil products. According to Petroleum Intelligence Weekly (PIW) 29 September 2003, Chinese crude oil imports during the first seven months of 2003 were 1.75 mbd, nearly 30% up on the same period in 2002. Oil product imports are now close to Japanese import levels. During the first seven months of 2003, China imported 0.52 mbd of oil products, up 56% on the same period in 2002. China’s surging oil demand (5.1 mbd as per July 2003) is set to stand for as much as one-third of the global oil demand growth estimated for 2003.