China’s Sept crude oil imports drop, but fuel exports reach 15-mths high By Stocksak

© Stocksak. FILE PHOTO – Oil and gas tanks can be seen at an oil warehouse in Zhuhai at a port in Zhuhai on October 22, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

By Chen Aizhu

SINGAPORE (Stocksak), China’s September imports were 2% lower than a year ago, data showed Monday. Independent refiners cut throughput amid low margins and a lackluster demand.

According to data from the General Administration of Customs, however, state-run refiners increased fuel exports to their highest monthly volume since June 2021 in order to cash in on strong export margins. This was a week behind schedule.

The world’s largest crude oil importer brought in 40.24million tonnes of crude oil last month. That is equivalent to 9.79 million barrels per hour (bpd). Although it was higher than August’s 9.5million bpd, the shipments were still below the 10 million bpd imports from last year.

The year’s first three quarters saw imports totalling 370.4 million tonnes. That’s 4.3% less than last year. It also saw 9.9 million BPD, or roughly 9.9 million tonnes. This marks the first annual decrease in imports since at least 2014.

China’s fuel demand was hard hit by Beijing’s strict COVID-19 curbs that stifled travel, manufacturing and other activities.

While most state refineries have returned from outages and planned maintenance, China’s independent refiners have continued to reduce production.

“The sentiment has dropped to a low level. A Singapore-based trading executive who works with an independent refiner of eastern China stated that margins were not good and that plants were not motivated by increasing runs.

The data showed that last month’s exports of refined fuel, including gasoline, diesel, and marine fuel oil, soared 36% to 5.64 millions tonnes, compared to a year ago.

Year-to date exports were down 27.6%, at 35.45 millions tonnes. This is due to Beijing’s policy in late 2021 to limit fuel exports.

Beijing has released a large number of new fuel export quotas in September to boost its economy. This could help exports recover further during the first quarter 2023.

Last month’s natural gas imports via pipelines as well as liquefied (LNG), rebounded to 10.15 Million tonnes, the highest level since January, according to the data.

However, volumes were 4.4% less than a year ago.

Companies avoided expensive spot purchases by avoiding LNG imports.

The first nine months of this year saw a 9.5% drop in gas imports at 81.16 millions tonnes, compared to the previous year.

(1 tonne = 7.3 barrels for crude oils)

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