BEIJING: China’s crude oil imports slipped 12.2 percent in October from the previous month as refiners hit the brakes after months of a buying frenzy that had raised crude inventory to a near-full level, and as independent refineries run out of import quotas.
China, the world’s No.1 crude oil importer, bought 42.56 million tons of the resource last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Saturday. That is equal to 10 million barrels per day (bpd).
The October imports compared with 11.8 million bpd in September and 10.72 million bpd in October of last year.
Over January-October, China took in a total of 458.56 million tons of crude oil, the data showed, equivalent to 11 million bpd, up 10.6 percent from the same period last year.
Analysts had estimated that China’s implied crude inventories grew by an average 1.7 million bpd over the first three quarters.
Many independent refineries, who account for almost a quarter of China’s total crude oil imports, have nearly used up all import quotas for 2020.
But the tide could be changing.
“Buying interest has shown signs of picking up recently as port congestion has eased further and the government recently issued total import quotas for 2021,” said Chen Jiyao, head of China client advisory at FGE.
China will raise 2021 non-state crude oil import quotas by 20 percent from the 2020 level to 243 million tons.
Chinese customs also released data showing that the country’s refined oil product exports for October rose 46.6 percent from a month ago to a total of 5.79 million tons.
Natural gas imports, including piped and liquefied natural gas, were 7.53 million tons in October, up 15.5 percent from a year earlier.
State-backed energy giants had predicted China’s gas demand to grow about 10 percent this winter.