Petroleum industry officials predicted yesterday the United States will import a record 51 per cent of its oil this year, despite the scheduled opening of the Alaskan pipeline.
The country bought more foreign oil last year than ever, they said, yet total U.S. energy consumption may grow this year by 6 per cent.
The officials said increased imports will be needed to meet that demand despite the scheduled mid-year opening of the Alaskan pipeline, which should deliver oil for the first time from Alaska's North Slope and reverse a six-year decline in U.S. crude oil production.
In separate reports, the American Petroleum Institute and the Institute of Gas Technology said U.S. oil and gas production declined in 1976 despite the most active drilling since 1964. Reserves also declined, they said.
Their picture of the U.S. energy outlook underscored a point made by government experts in recent weeks - that the nation faces serious energy problems and this winter's natural gas crisis may be repeated in even harsher fashion in years ahead.
The API said average demand for petroleum products last year was 17.4 million barrels a day.
A record 7.3 million barrels a day, or 42 per cent of the total, came from overseas, it said. That represented a 28.1 per cent increase over 1975 in crude oil imports and a 2.6 per cent rise in imports of refined products.
In a forecast of 1977 consumption, the IGT predicted a 6 per cent increase in total U.S. energy demand this year. It said oil imports may average 8.5 million barrels a day - a record 51 per cent of all U.S. petroleum consumption.
API President Frank Ikard said U.S. proved reserves of crude oil decreased by 6.3 billion barrels between 1971 and 1975, while proved reserves of natural gas declined by 62.5 trillion cubic feet.
Production of U.S. crude oil and natural gas liquids totaled 9.8 million barrels a day, a drop of nearly 3 per cent from 1975 production.