(EnergyAsia, March 28 2013, Thursday) — North America’s rising oil production and Asia’s growing energy demand will lead to a drastic shift in the direction of the world’s oil flows through 2020, said US consultant ESAI Energy.

The Boston-based consultant predicts that by the end of the decade, crude oil flows west of Suez will drop by 4.2 million b/d while supplies to the east will rise by 4.7 million b/d.

In its ‘Global Oil Balance to 2035’ report, ESAI said the Asia Pacific countries will become more dependent on Middle East suppliers while rising production of US shale liquids and Canadian oil sands will lead to North America becoming more energy self-sufficient.

As a result, Asian nations, especially China, will be forced to take a more active role in responding to conflicts and political instability in the Middle East, which will see changes to its relationship with the US, the current guarantor of the world’s main sea lanes. MARKETS Global crude oil flows to shift from west to east by over four million b:d by 2020

ESAI said North American oil imports from Latin America, Africa and the Middle East will drop by three million b/d between 2012 and 2020, while European imports from the same regions will be down by two million b/d, causing the oil producers to increasingly focus on selling to Asia.

The former Soviet states, Africa and Latin America are expected to raise exports to Asia by 1.7 million b/d, leaving the remaining three million b/d of demand to be met by Middle Eastern producers. This implies an annual increment of as much as 375,000 b/d through 2020.

Analysing the implications of the shifts in global oil trade, ESAI Energy’s Sarah Emerson said:

“US and European interest in committing resources and personnel to the security of the Persian Gulf may face renewed political resistance. Competition for the Asia-Pacific market is bound to weaken crude prices, and China’s disproportionate dependence on imported oil will hasten efforts to improve energy security, including the inevitable development of shale.”