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Chinese customs data has revealed that the world’s second-largest consumer of crude oil imported 8.55 million barrels of oil daily during the first half of the year, or 212 million tons in total – a 13.8-percent annual increase.
In May alone, Chinese refiners imported 37.2 million tons of crude, or 273 million barrels. This was up 15.4 percent from May 2016, and the second-highest monthly import rate ever.
The growth in imports comes on the back of higher refinery runs after a maintenance period, as well as dwindling local crude production. In May, Chinese refineries processed 46.62 million tons (342 million barrels) of crude oil, up 5.4 percent on the year, while domestic production fell by 3.7 percent to 16.26 million tons (119 million barrels).
The U.S. is the latest addition in the group of exporters of crude to China, with shipments over the first five months of the year averaging almost 100,000 bpd. That, according to customs data cited by Hellenic Shipping News, was a tenfold increase on the average for 2016. Back in February, China overtook Canada as the biggest client of U.S. crude.
The second half of the year could see a further increase in U.S. shipments: Saudi Arabia yesterday said it would reduce its Asia-bound crude exports by 200,000 bpd next month due to peak demand at home.
China, on the other hand, last month approved a second round of oil import quotas for independent refineries and several state operators that will bring the total import quota amount to 91.73 million tons or 1.83 million barrels per day for the whole of 2017. The first round of quotas, issued in January, allowed for the import of 68.81 million tons and the second one is for 22.92 million tons.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.