Nigeria's crude oil export to the United States of America, which was over one million barrels per day (bpd) in December 2009, has declined to 352,000bpd, representing a loss of about 70 per cent of its oil exports to the country.
Citing recent data from the United States Energy Department, the Global Water and Energy Strategy Team (GWEST), a Washington-based consulting firm said in its latest report that Nigeria was the third-largest supplier of crude oil to the United States in 2010, with the US accounting for 43 per cent of Nigeria's exports.
GWEST, which specialises in the geo-politics of strategic resources, noted that Nigeria was closely behind Canada and Mexico in oil export to the United States.
The report indicated that in September 2011, Nigeria's crude exports to the United States dropped to 580,000bpd, with the country assuming the sixth position, after Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela and Russia.
Nigeria's crude export to the United States further dwindled to 352,000bpd by February 2012, signalling a decline in trade between the two countries that dates back to 1961, when Texaco Overseas began operations in Nigeria.
President of GWEST, Mr. Paul Michael Wihbey, said the loss of the United States market had forced Nigeria to ship crude oil twice the distance to Asian markets.
Though refiners in Asia are increasing crude oil imports, investigation revealed that the distance from the Shell's Bonny Export terminal in Rivers State, for instance, to Tianjin, China, is 12,172 miles, compared to 5,847 miles to the New York Harbour in the United States.
Speaking at a recent event organised in Lagos by the Emerald Institute for Energy Economics, Policy and Strategic Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Wihbey said Nigerian crude might need to be priced at a discount to go to new markets in Asia.
He attributed Nigeria's dwindling exports to the United States to increased production in the United States.
For instance, owing to increased drilling in North Dakota's Bakken and Texas' Eagle Ford, crude production in the United States rose to 6.24 million barrels a day in May 2012, the highest level since 1999, according to government data.
Refiners that use Nigerian crude oil are also closing plants on the United States' east coast, the main destination for Nigerian exports, amid falling returns on investment.
Recent reports indicated that Sunoco stopped production at the 194,000bpd Marcus Hook plant in Pennsylvania on December 2011.
The company also said it would decide by July, 2012 whether to halt production at its 355,000bpd Philadelphia plant.
ConocoPhillips stopped its 190,000bpd Trainer, plant site on September 30, 2011 and the two facilities together accounted for half of east coast crude oil processing capacity.