China will become the largest crude oil importer in the world over the next seven years, according to a recent report from research and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. By 2017, it is expected to surpass the United States in imports of the commodity, with demand driven primarily by its motorists.
Only three years later, the study suggests the Asian nation will be importing 9.2 million barrels of oil per day. In comparison, the United States' import requirements will drop to 6.8 million bpd.
"We will therefore see OPEC suppliers, who traditionally focused on the U.S. for crude sales, compelled to shift their focus towards China," said William Durbin, the Beijing-based president of Wood Mackenzie's global markets. "China will look towards OPEC supply more as the United States relies on it less."
Indeed, according to The Financial Post, analysts believe 66 percent of China's oil imports will be from OPEC by 2020, compared to only 52 percent in 2005. On the other hand, hydraulic fracturing has allowed U.S. energy companies to access previously untapped reserves of crude oil. As a result, the United States' dependence on imports of the commodity has declined sharply.