China could overtake the U.S. as the world's largest oil importer by 2014, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said in a report this week, the latest evidence of how the American shale boom is reshaping global energy markets.
"With the shale boom in the [U.S.] threatening to drastically reduce America's oil import needs, China is expected to take its place in the number one spot," OPEC said in a report posted on its website.
OPEC, whose members supply more than one in three barrels of crude consumed worldwide, said rising Chinese imports were backed by increased throughput at the country's refineries.
The group quoted analysis saying China's oil imports could top 6 million barrels this year, while the Washington-based Energy Information Administration foresees net U.S. oil imports could fall below that level in 2014.
After initially downplaying the impact of the U.S. shale boom, OPEC, whose members include rival producers from Africa, the Middle East and Latin America--is gradually accepting its transformational role in markets.
In February, the group said demand for its members' oil in 2013 will be 100,000 barrels a day lower than previously forecast because growing output from non-member countries, particularly North American shale oil, will eat into their market share.
In a landmark report in November, the International Energy Agency, which advises developed oil-consuming nations, predicted the U.S. would become the largest global oil producer by 2020 while North America could turn into a net oil exporter 10 years later.
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