Africa Oil State Hooked on U.S. Fuel: Chart of the Day

First the U.S. shale-oil boom took away Nigeria’s biggest crude-export market. Now Africa’s biggest economy is depending on American fuel to power its vehicles and planes.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows how U.S. imports of Nigerian crude have almost converged with American sales of refined-petroleum cargoes like gasoline and kerosene shipped in the opposite direction. The U.S. gets less than 2 percent of its oil from Nigeria, compared with 7 percent in 2011, Energy Department data show. Nigeria imported more than half of its fuels from America at times in 2013, from less than a fifth three years ago, according to IHS Inc., a consulting firm.

Surging oil output in the U.S., most of it banned from export under decades-old laws, hands refiners on the Gulf Coast inexpensive feedstock to process into cargoes such as gasoline for sale overseas. Nigeria’s growing dependence highlights its battle to produce enough fuels domestically, according to Jamie Webster, an oil analyst at IHS in Washington.

“We’ve gone from taking all this crude from Nigeria, now we don’t take the crude and are instead sending crude there in the form of refined products,” Webster said by phone on July 25. “It’s an evolution of the relationship.”

The dwindling Nigerian shipments to the U.S. mean that disruptions to the African nation’s supplies from theft or militant attacks don’t trigger the kind of oil price rallies they generated a few years ago, he said.

“Nigeria is no longer quite as critical in setting global oil prices when things get tight,” Webster said. “From an energy security standpoint, the U.S. isn’t quite as worried” about losses in the Niger Delta.

(Corrects dateline.)
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