Helping America Navigate a New Energy Reality

The Myth of US Self-Sufficiency in Crude Oil

By on 21 Jan 2016 in notable posts, viewpoints

(Energy Matters) Guest post by Matt Mushalik who runs the Australian Crude Oil Peak web site where this article was first published. There is a wealth of information and brilliant charts below the fold.

Google for “US energy independence” and you will get 134,000 results, “US self sufficiency” yields 10,000 results. Here are some examples of what the media reports:

In Aljazeera’s Inside Story, 10/1/2016, titled “How much support will Saudi Arabia win against Iran?” the delicate relationship between the US, Saudi Arabia and Iran is discussed with 3 panellists. The moderator wanted answers in the context of “the US is almost at a tipping point, is almost energy independent..” (18:45)

In the State of the Union Address 2014 Obama proudly announced: “Today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades”. In the latest SOUA on 12th January 2016, we hear: “Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent”

On 16/1/2016, the 7pm news of Australia’s public broadcaster ABC TV had this snippet:

Let’s look at the data: Crude imports

Fig 1: US crude oil production, imports and exports The graph shows that crude production reached almost 9.5 mb/d in 2015, just short of the historic peak in 1970. But imports are still 7 mb/d. Exports were only around 500 kb/d (to Canada) due to an export ban (which was recently lifted). Let’s zoom into the period since 2007, the peak year of imports. Fig 2: US crude production vs imports since 2007 We have several phases in this crude oil import history: 3 year decline of imports due to recession as oil prices went up, followed by the financial crisis

A rebound when quantitative easing started

A 2 mb/d decline 1 year after the shale oil boom started
In 2013 the growing production curve intersects with the declining import curve at around 7.5 mb/d i.e. a production/import ratio 50:50. Since then production grew another 2 mb/d but has peaked in April 2015 because of low oil prices which hit the shale oil industry. Imports did not continue to decline but remained basically flat. Fig 3: Import share of crude oil supplies (=production+imports) Due to slightly declining crude production the ratio did not improve anymore in 2015 and appears to be stuck at 43%. Clearly, this is not “virtually self-sufficient in [crude] oil”. Fig 4: […]

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