Oil workers operate powered tongs on a drilling operation near Pigeon Lake… (Norm Betts / Bloomberg )
The U.S. is relying more on Canada and Saudi Arabia for its crude oil needs as imports and production in other supplier nations recede to some of their lowest levels in years, according to a report released by the Energy Department.
The top five foreign suppliers of crude have remained unchanged, but there have been important developments in some of those countries.
The U.S. is importing less oil than it has since 1999 because of a combination of factors such as lower demand since the global recession and increased domestic production in states such as Texas and North Dakota.
But the nation will remain dependent on a steady supply of foreign oil, and some of those sources have become less and less reliable.
In Mexico, the third-ranked source of foreign crude, production has dropped to its lowest level since 1995. That fact, combined with that country's own rising demand, has meant that U.S. imports have fallen by 4.5%, to 1.1 million barrels a day in February, compared with a year earlier.
Imports from fourth-ranked Venezuela fell 5% to 900,000 barrels a day, the lowest level since 1992, and widespread violence throughout fifth-ranked Nigeria has resulted in a 22% decline in exports to the U.S., to 800,000 barrels a day.
The gap left unfilled by U.S. production has been met by Canada and the Saudis. Canadian imports have climbed 12.2% to 2.2 million barrels a day as more crude is delivered south to the U.S. by rail. Canadian oil imports recently topped 2 million barrels a day for the first time.
Saudi exports to the U.S. also increased, up 10% to 1.2 million barrels a day.
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