China's hunger for energy has put level with the US for oil imports in 2012 and could overtake it in 2013.
In December 2012, both the US and China were reporting net imports of six million barrels a day (bpd) of crude oil, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Shrinking US imports, due in part to the “shale gale”, and China’s booming auto industry, could tip China to become the world’s largest net oil importer in 2013.
A report from Citi Research shows China’s net oil imports in January were 6.3m bpd, just under last May’s peak. Furthermore, the developing nation is already adding 450,000 bpd of refining capacity in 2013 to process the oil influx.
Meanwhile, in the US, the shale boom has allowed America to slow its net imports as it meets more of its energy needs via domestic sources. Imports from OPEC countries and the Middle East have also slowed significantly over the past few years. China overtook the US as the largest importer of crude oil from the Middle East in 2012.
On the positive side of China's energy ledger, the country became the world’s second-largest producer of petrochemicals in 2012.