The World’s Top 5 Oil Consumers

Pump-jack mining crude oil with the sunset
Credit: Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash

Oil is one of the world’s most important energy resources, and it continues to underpin the modern-day economies across the world. Almost 48% of the world’s oil is consumed by five nations. In 2021, 97.39 million barrels were consumed every day, and the number is expected to increase to 99.61 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2022 and 101.55 million b/d by 2023.

Here's an overview of the top oil consumption by country. 

1. United States

With a consumption of 20.31% of the world’s oil, the U.S. is the largest oil consumer in the world. The U.S. ranks at the top spot not just as a consumer but even as an oil producer. The data by U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that total petroleum production in the U.S. averaged about 18.87 million barrels per day (b/d) while its consumption averaged about 19.78 million b/d in 2021. America’s oil consumption has not dramatically increased since 1990 when it consumed 16.99 million b/d. The U.S. consumption is estimated to become 20.51 million b/d and 20.78 million b/d in 2022 and 2023, respectively. During the last year, 8.47 million barrels b/d of petroleum were imported by the U.S. from across 73 countries while it exported about 8.63 million b/d. Crude oil accounted for 72% of the imports and 35% of the exports. The top five source countries of U.S. gross petroleum imports were Canada, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Colombia. In 2021, Canada was the source of 62% of gross crude oil imports.

2. China

China consumes close to 16% of the world’s oil production, making it the second largest consumer in the world. Although China lists among the top oil producers in the world as well, its production falls way short of its consumption. China’s oil consumption was 2.33 million b/d in 1990, which increased to 4.69 million b/d by 2000 and 9.18 million b/d by 2010. During 2021, China produced 4.99 million b/d while it consumed 15.27 million b/d. China’s oil consumption is expected to reach 15.56 million b/d in 2022 and 16.05 million b/d in 2023. China’s oil production is expected around 5.1 million b/d in 2023. China surpassed the U.S. in annual gross crude oil imports in 2017. “New refinery capacity and strategic inventory stockpiling combined with declining domestic oil production” were seen as the major factors contributing to the increase in China’s crude oil imports. China is the largest single buyer of Russian oil (20% of Russia’s exports)—averaging at 1.6 million b/d of crude in 2021, equally divided between pipeline and seaborne routes. 

3. India

With a daily consumption of 4.65 million barrels, India is the third largest oil consumer in the world. Back in 1990, India consumed 1.17 million b/d, which increased to 2.18 million b/d by 2000 and touched 3.14 million b/d by 2010. India’s energy requirement continues to climb given its dynamic economic growth, population growth and modernization over the past several years. However, given its domestic production of around 0.89 million b/d, the country is heavily reliant on imports to meet its demand (petroleum products and crude oil). Even in the face of steep demand, increasing domestic oil production remains challenging due to ageing wells, insufficient investments, and technically challenging deep-water wells development issues. The government has been incentivizing more investment into the sector to reduce India’s oil import dependency. It is estimated that around $58 billion will be invested in exploration and production by 2023. India Energy Outlook 2021 by IEA projects, “India’s oil demand will rise by almost 4 million b/d to reach 8.7 million b/d in 2040, the largest increase of any country.” 

4. Russia

Russia’s consumption of 3.61 million b/d places it at the fourth spot. However, the country is expected to see a decline to 3.31 million b/d in 2022, which will place it at the fifth position. Russia is the third largest producer of oil in the world, behind the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Russia produced 10.78 million b/d of crude oil in 2021, which was equivalent to 11.28% of the world’s production. Russia is an important player in the oil market and has been actively coordinating oil production with OPEC and other non-OPEC producers, collectively known as OPEC+. The high production capacity and much lower consumption leave Russia with ample crude oil for exports; the country exported 45% of its oil production in 2021. Russia is the second largest crude oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia. In the wake of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the U.S. placed a ban on the import of Russian crude oil and certain petroleum products, liquefied natural gas and coal. At a country level, China is the largest importer of oil from Russia.

5. Japan

With a consumption of 3.43 million b/d, Japan is the fifth largest consumer of oil in the world. Although oil remains the largest source of energy, the country’s share of total energy consumption has declined from about 80% in the 1970s to 40% in 2019, according to an IEA report. Japan’s oil consumption stood at 5.3 million b/d in 1990, which moved to 5.6 million b/d by 1999. The new millennium witnessed lower demand, reaching 4.4 million b/d by 2010. In 2022 and 2023, the consumption is estimated at 3.41 million b/d and 3.39 million b/d, respectively. The decline is attributed to factors such as a declining and ageing population and an expanding fleet of hybrid and electric vehicles. Japan has limited domestic proven oil reserves and largely relies on imports. Among countries from which Japan imports oil, Saudi Arabia leads with 44.5% share followed by UAE at 25.4%. Overall, the Middle East has a dominant share of 90.5% with Qatar, Kuwait and other countries included. Japan aims to become a carbon-neutral, decarbonized society by 2050. 

Next in line are Brazil, Canada and Mexico. The list of largest producers of oil includes the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia, Canada and China. 

Disclaimer: The author has no position in any stocks mentioned. Investors should consider the above information not as a de facto recommendation, but as an idea for further consideration. The report has been carefully prepared, and any exclusions or errors in it are totally unintentional. The data is based on reports from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and International Energy Agency (IEA). The data for 2021 is based on the U.S. EIA data ––which covers International Petroleum and other Liquids Production, Consumption, and Inventories. Ranking is based on consumption of petroleum and other liquids.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Prableen Bajpai

Prableen Bajpai is the founder of FinFix Research and Analytics which is an all women financial research and wealth management firm. She holds a bachelor (honours) and master’s degree in economics with a major in econometrics and macroeconomics. Prableen is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA, ICFAI) and a CFP®.

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