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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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The World’s Top Oil Consumers


No doubt when faced with the question “Who’s the biggest oil guzzler in the world?” one would immediately think about the U.S. or China. Or perhaps India. Few of us, however, would say Gibraltar. Yet on a per-capita basis, Gibraltar is the world’s top crude oil consumer, with an average daily consumption rate of 861,06 barrels per day per 1,000 people as of 2014. In case anyone’s interested, the top 5 list also contains tiny nations such as Montserrat, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and Nauru.

The reason these countries have made the top 5 is that they are indeed very small, so the per-capita data paints a kind of misleading picture, although to be fair, the top 10 list features nations such as Singapore, at #3, Kuwait, at #7, and the United Arab Emirates at #10. Yet the big ones—the U.S., China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Russia—are further down the list of per-capita consumption.

If we switch to overall consumption, however, we get the picture that has been swinging international oil prices, with U.S. at the top, consuming 19.6 million barrels of crude daily, followed by China, with around 11.3 million bpd in consumption. The top five here is completed by Japan, India, and Russia. Together, these five nations gobble up more than 40 million barrels every day. That’s compared to global consumption of 98.3 million bpd, forecast for this year by the Energy Information Administration.

So, just five countries account for more than a third of global consumption. For context, the EIA ranking of oil consumers includes 206 countries, the last 25 of which use up less than 2,000 barrels of crude daily each. Incidentally, these include Montserrat, the fourth-biggest per-capita consumer, and Saint Pierre and Miquelon, another top-five per-capital consumer. Related: Is $75 Oil Still Possible?

So, what would happen if these top five consumers— consumers that need more than 40 million barrels of crude on a daily basis—reduced their consumption by half? That would be 20 million barrels in daily demand taken off the market, where EIA projects supply this year to hit 98.47 million barrels. Now that would be some price crash to see.

We won’t get to see it anytime soon, however, as all the biggest oil guzzlers are industrialized nations and the renewable energy drive it will take years, if not decades. In the U.S., as in the other top consumers, demand has been growing steadily, alongside the rise of renewable energy. Even Germany, where demand for oil has been declining thanks to the growing reliance on cleaner energy sources, is still in the top 10 globally, consuming 2.338 million barrels of crude daily as of 2015.

A recent report from a new UK-based think tank, RethinkX, painted a very gloomy picture for the oil industry in the coming decade as electric self-driving cars took over roads. Hypothetically, such a disruption as RethinkX calls it, could lead to the halving of crude oil demand in at least some of the top oil consumers. In reality, however, such a change in demand is bound to happen much more gradually, disruptions or no disruptions. Oil is a tough habit to kick.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • hall monitor on June 07 2017 said:
    In general, the countries with highest per capita oil consumption achieve this distinction because they use oil to generate electricity, not because they are small. Many are islands. Others are oil producers. Expect to see dramatic reductions in these over the next decade.

    Also, the Rethinx report is fatally flawed and has been repeatedly analyzed as such. At est it is an interesting mental exercise. Electric vehicles will undoubtedly dominate. But not in the timeframe indicated. And, the assumptions related to reduction in vehicle fleet are...breathtakingly invalid.

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