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April 19, 2013

Concentration of U.S. crude oil imports among top five suppliers highest since 1997

Graph of natural gas consumption in the electric power sector, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly.
Note: Iraq replaced Nigeria as the number five supplier during 2012.

Crude oil imports from the top five foreign suppliers to the United States—which in 2012 were Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Iraq, in that order—accounted for almost 72% of total U.S. net crude oil imports, the highest proportion since 1997. The import share of the top five suppliers increased by 8 percentage points over the past three years despite a decline in total U.S. import volumes as the United States reduced its total crude oil imports in response to higher domestic oil production.

U.S. net crude oil imports from the five countries averaged almost 6.1 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2012, even as total U.S. crude oil imports fell to their lowest level since 1997. Crude oil from the five countries accounted for a bigger share of overall U.S. net crude oil imports in 2012 than in previous years, at almost 72%, according to EIA's Petroleum Supply Monthly report. That share is up from around 64% in 2009, when the economic recession resulted in declining U.S. crude oil demand, and the highest share since reaching almost 73% in 1997. During 2012, Iraq replaced Nigeria as the fifth-largest supplier of U.S. crude oil imports.

Highlights from the major crude oil supplying countries to the United States in 2012 included:

  • Canada. Crude oil imports by the United States averaged a record 2.4 million bbl/d, up 8% from their 2011 level.
  • Saudi Arabia. Crude oil imports averaged almost 1.4 million bbl/d, up 14% from their 2011 level, and were the highest since 2008.
  • Mexico. Crude oil imports of 972,000 bbl/d were down almost 12%, and fell below 1 million bbl/day for the first time since 1994, reflecting the steady decline in Mexico's crude oil production.
  • Venezuela. Crude oil imports rose 4% to 906,000 bbl/d, the first increase since 2007. Venezuela's state oil company sent more crude to U.S. refineries, which exported more gasoline and other petroleum products back to Venezuela.
  • Iraq. Crude oil imports of 474,000 bbl/d were up slightly more than 3% from 2011, moving Iraq ahead of Nigeria as the fifth-largest oil supplier to the United States for the first time since 1999. Iraq's crude oil production in the second half of last year topped 3 million bbl/d for first time since the end of the Gulf War in 1990.
  • Nigeria. Crude oil imports of 405,000 bbl/d were down 42% from the year before and the lowest since 1985. Growing domestic production of light sweet crude oil of similar quality to Nigerian crude and lower demand for light sweet crude from United States East Coast refineries contributed to the decline.