There was a time two decades ago when Saudi Arabia accounted for 20% of U.S. oil imports.
Even in the last decade the U.S. generally consumed 1.5 million barrels per day of crude from the Saudi Kingdom.
In 2009 this dropped sharply, to 985,000 barrels per day on average.
This downward trend has continued:
The latest official data, released monthly by the US Energy Information Administration, shows that imports of Saudi crude have now been below the million b/d mark for five consecutive months, between October and February.
The shift to Asia is “purely a business and market issue, no more and no less,” Saudi oil ministry adviser Ibrahim al-Muhanna told a Paris conference last month. Indeed, Muhanna said he hoped “that anyone tempted to project political motivations into this trend will recognise that what is taking place is merely a logistical adjustment to market realities.”
Saudi Arabia’s increasing focus on Asia comes as the US expects oil imports from another of its top suppliers, Mexico, to decline by as much as 430,000 b/d over the next two years. As well as in Mexico, sizeable declines are expected in the North Sea, where the EIA sees liquids production falling by 670,000 b/d between 2009 and 2011.
That’s a lot of oil to lose and it will be interesting to see how and from where the US replaces these volumes.
Given that Saudi Arabia exports over 8.7 million barrels per day, America’s consumption is becoming an increasingly smaller drop in the barrel. As Asia keeps growing its consumption while America remains below its recent peak consumption (some say permanently) and increasingly receiving oil from nearby countries, we have to wonder — Are we already past the peak of U.S.-Saudi relations?