China is set to overtake the United States as the world’s largest net oil importer from October, according to US figures, due to a combination of rising Chinese demand and increased US production.
Next year, China’s net oil imports will exceed those of the United States on an annual basis and the gap between them will continue to widen, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.
China is already the biggest energy user in the world and the second-largest oil consumer after the US. The shift has been driven by steady growth in Chinese demand, increased oil production in the US, and stagnant or weakening demand in the US market, the EIA said in a report.
A graph on the EIA’s website shows China’s net imports steadily rising, with those of the US falling at a faster rate, and says the crossover point comes in two months’ time.
Growing petroleum production in the US has been largely driven by the increasing use of sometimes controversial hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking.
The technique uses huge amounts of pressurised water mixed with chemicals to crack open rock and release oil and natural gas, making the exploitation of vast shale hydrocarbon reserves economically viable.