China to become world's biggest net oil importer
China is set to overtake the United States as the world's largest net oil importer from October, according to US figures, due to a combination of rising Chinese demand and increased US production.
Next year, China's net oil imports will exceed those of the US on an annual basis and the gap between them will continue to widen, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.
China is already the biggest energy user in the world and the second-largest oil consumer after the US.
The shift has been driven by steady growth in Chinese demand, increased oil production in the US, and stagnant or weakening demand in the US market, the EIA said in a report.
A graph on the EIA's website shows China's net imports steadily rising, with those of the US falling at a faster rate, and says the crossover point comes in two months.
Growing petroleum production in the US has been largely driven by the increasing use of sometimes controversial hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking.
The technique uses huge amounts of pressurised water mixed with chemicals to crack open rock and release oil and natural gas, making the exploitation of vast shale hydrocarbon reserves economically viable.
It is changing the world's energy market but it has been banned in other countries such as France due to environmental concerns.
US annual oil output is expected to rise 28 per cent between 2011 and 2014 to nearly 13 million barrels per day, while Chinese production is forecast to grow by 6 per cent over the period, and will stand at just a third of US production in 2014, the EIA said.
Meanwhile, China's liquid fuel use will increase 13 per cent over the period to more than 11 million barrels per day while US demand hovers close to 18.7 million barrels per day.
That is below its peak consumption of 20.8 million barrels per day in 2005, the EIA added.