* Sept crude imports at 11.8 mln bpd vs 11.2 mln bpd in Aug
* Analysts expect crude imports to be muted in Q4 2020
* Fuel exports at 3.95 mln T below 4.27 mln T in Aug (Update throughout, add analyst comments)
BEIJING, Oct 13 (Reuters) - China’s crude oil imports rose 2.1% in September from a month ago as some delayed cargoes finally cleared customs after a months-long port congestion eased, while onshore storage capacity was expanded.
China, the world’s top crude oil importer, took in 48.48 million tonnes of oil last month, according to data from the General Administration of Customs on Tuesday, equivalent to 11.8 million barrels per day (bpd).
That compares to 11.18 million bpd in August and 10.04 million bpd in September last year, but still below the record high level of 12.94 mln bpd imported in June.
For the first three quarters of 2020, China imported a total of 416 million tonnes of crude oil, data showed, or about 11.08 million bpd, up 12.7% from the same period last year.
Storage facilities holding crude stocks at major Chinese ports were close to full in July and August following a bargain purchase amid a collapse of oil prices in April due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Companies and ports have been scrambling to add storage capacity to ease the port congestion.
“Port operations should continue at high capacity in the near term. This coupled with reduced inbound flows of fresh cargoes should further draw down floating storage in the coming weeks,” said Chen Jiyao, head of China client advisory with consultancy FGE.
But with China’s fuel demand having already peaked as global oil prices rebound, refineries are struggling with swelling stocks of refined products and poor refining margins.
“In contrast to strong imports growth in the second and third quarters, China’s crude imports growth is likely to be muted in the fourth quarter due to historical high crude inventories and higher import base recorded in the fourth quarter last year,” said Seng Yick Tee, senior director at consultancy SIA Energy.
Customs data also showed China’s refined oil product exports for September at 3.95 million tonnes, lower than 4.27 million tonnes in August.
September’s natural gas imports, both piped and liquefied natural gas (LNG), were 8.66 million tonnes, up 5.5% from a year earlier. (Reporting by Muyu Xu in Beijing and Chen Aizhu in Singapore; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)
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