July 12, 2019 / 8:59 AM / 4 months ago

China's June crude oil imports climb as new refineries spur demand

SINGAPORE/BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s crude oil imports on a daily basis in June rose 15.2% from a year earlier, customs data showed on Friday, as the start up of new large-scale refiners spurred demand for feedstocks.

FILE PHOTO: A crude oil tanker is seen at Qingdao Port, Shandong province, China, April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

A new plant owned by Hengli Petrochemical (600346.SS), capable of processing 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, reached full operations in late May, while a similar sized plant owned by Zhejiang Petrochemical has started trial runs.

June imports by the world’s largest crude oil importer came in at 39.58 million tonnes, according to data from the General Administration of Customs.

That works out to 9.63 million bpd, up 1.7% from 9.47 million bpd level in May and up from 8.36 million bpd a year ago.

For the first six months of 2019, crude imports grew 8.8% from a year earlier to 244.6 million tonnes, or about 9.87 million bpd.

June imports rose despite poor margins limiting runs at some plants and amid shut downs for maintenance.

Last month, Sinopec’s 200,000-bpd Luoyang refinery, PetroChina’s 140,000-bpd Jinzhou refinery and a 200,000-bpd Liaoyang Petrochemical plant were shut for planned repairs.

Two coastal refineries under top state refiner Sinopec Corp (0386.HK) suffered losses in June for the first time this year, plant sources have said, as they processed higher-priced crude while domestic fuel prices trended lower.

China’s crude oil purchases are expected to be subdued in July as fuel supply from mammoth new refineries stokes an already-sizeable glut.

Customs data also showed China exported 5.43 million tonnes of oil products in June, up 13.5% from a year earlier and rising from 4.49 million tonnes in May, reflecting the growing surplus.

Exports for the first half of 2019 totaled 32.52 million tonnes, up 7.3% from a year ago.

Natural gas imports, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) and pipeline imports, were 7.52 million tonnes last month, the customs data showed, easing from 7.56 million tonnes in May.

Imports of the cleaner fuel have slowed since March from peaks in the winter months when heating demand surges.

(1 tonne=7.3 barrels for crude oil conversion)

Reporting by Chen Aizhu in Singapore and Muyu Xu in Beijing; Editing by Joseph Radford

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