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BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's apparent oil demand growth slowed further in the third quarter, largely in line with economic growth in the world's second-largest economy amid domestic policy constraints and global uncertainties.
The National Development and Reform Commission said on Saturday that apparent oil consumption grew only 3.2 percent from a year earlier in the third quarter, down from the 5 percent rise in second quarter and 9.3 percent in the first quarter.
Consumption in the first three quarters increased 5.9 percent on year, compared with a rise of 7.2 percent in the first half and 10.2 percent in the first quarter, the commission's data showed.
The weakening momentum was also reflected in oil refining activity, with refiners processing 99.72 million tonnes of crude oil from July to September, up 1.2 percent from a year earlier, compared with gains of 3.3 percent on year from April to June and 9.4 percent on year from January to March.
Based on the commission's July and August crude throughput figures, it suggests daily refinery runs in September were the lowest this year.
The commission's data often does not tally with the National Bureau of Statistics, which is scheduled to publish September's refinery runs and other output data next week, even though the trends of their January-to-August refinery runs data looked similar.
The commission said refined oil products inventories fell to 11.48 million tonnes at the end of September from the record high of 15.61 million tonnes at the end of February.
That suggests refiners have drawn down stocks in past months when they cut refining and that the deceleration in oil demand growth might not be as high as the headline figures show.
Crude oil output in the third quarter declined 2.6 percent on year to 50.07 million tonnes, as offshore output was dragged down by oil field maintenance, typhoons in the South China Sea and the production halt of Penglai 19-3 oil field due to oil spills, the commission said.
Natural gas imports surged 89 percent from a year earlier to 22.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) in the first three quarters, of which 11.3 bcm was piped in from central Asia and 11.2 bcm was carried in the form of liquefied natural gas, according to the commission.
It did not provide imports for September alone.
Gas imports in the third quarter totalled 8.3 bcm, equivalent to about 27 percent of domestic consumption.
China's domestic natural gas production was 23.9 bcm in the third quarter, up 6.9 percent on year, the commission said.
Editing by Nick Macfie