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U.S. Oil Imports From Africa Are Down 90 Percent

An oil facility near Warri, Nigeria

Photograph by George Esiri/Corbis

An oil facility near Warri, Nigeria

The U.S. used to be the world’s biggest consumer of African oil, importing about a quarter of the continent’s total exports. Now it’s barely taking any at all. Since 2010 the U.S. has cut the amount of oil it imports from African countries by 90 percent, from an average of roughly 2 million barrels per day to about 170,000.

The shale oil boom has boosted U.S. production from 5 million barrels a day in 2008 to more than 8 million. The Energy Information Administration predicts that by 2019 that number will rise to 9.6 million barrels per day. For what it’s worth, Saudi Arabia pumps about 9.5 million barrels of oil per day.

Almost all of that new U.S. oil is light, sweet crude—the same kind American refiners used to import from West Africa. Now, instead of shipping it across the Atlantic, U.S. refiners are piping and railing it across the country. That’s pushed African oil to Asia (China now gets a third of its oil from Africa) and helped keep the world oil markets stable and well supplied amid large amounts of chaos and outages.

U.S. imports of African crude have fallen 90 percentEnergy Information AdministrationU.S. imports of African crude have fallen 90 percent

This is essentially the story of four major African oil producers that hardly sell to the U.S. anymore: Nigeria, Angola, Algeria, and Libya. Nigeria has seen its exports to the U.S. tumble the most, from more than a milion barrels a day in 2011 to about 38,000 as of February.

Philips is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @matthewaphilips.

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