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By Samuel R. Avro on Mar 27, 2012 with 2 responses

U.S. Crude Oil Imports Down 12% Since 2005

Foreign Oil Imports at Lowest Level Since Before Y2K

U.S. crude oil imports have fallen to their lowest level since 1999, according to data provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), an arm of the U.S. Department Of Energy (DOE).

Crude oil imports for 2011 averaged 8.9 million barrels per day (bbl/d), falling below the 9 million bbl/d mark for the first time since 1999, and down 12 percent since hitting a peak of 10.1 million bbl/d in 2005.

Increased Domestic Production, Lower Demand, or Both?

The contributing factors to the steady drop in U.S. crude oil imports are decreased consumption and a recent increase in domestic oil production, according to the EIA.

“Purchases of imported crude oil have declined because U.S. refiners had more supplies from domestic crude production to use, particularly higher oil output from Texas and North Dakota’s Bakken formation,” the EIA said. “Texas oil production last year reached its highest level since 1997, and North Dakota appears to have pushed past California in December as the third biggest oil producing state.”

“The increased production trend is attributable primarily to a sustained period of high prices, and vast improvements in technology to find and bring oil to market,” Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS), told Consumer Energy Report. “The lower demand is a bit more puzzling. Some of it relies on a more efficient fleet, but turning over the fleet is a process that moves at a glacial pace.  Something else is afoot in the last six months — my hunch is that there is a more secular change in travel, both for work and for leisure.”

  1. By drunyon on March 30, 2012 at 11:15 am

    It’s interesting what a difference in scale makes.  In your chart, the range is 8-10.25 million barrels a day, and it looks dramatic.  In (net oil imports) where the scale is 0-12.5 million barrels a day, not so much.  My wife watches a lot of investment shows, and people are talking about the trend clearly going to oil independence.  Looking at the 0-12.5 million barrels a day graph, that doesn’t look nearly so clear.

    • By Samuel R. Avro on March 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      Overall oil dependence is something I plan to tackle in a future post, but this one was merely to provide a look at oil imports since 1997. For this reason, I felt that the “zoomed in” view fit best.

      But you’re point is correct, even with the downward trend since ’05 — when we were importing more than 10 million bbl/d — the trend is not as clear-cut as some would make it seem.

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