As many as 125 supertankers were traveling to China at the end of April, carrying the biggest volumes of oil to the world’s top crude buyer in more than two years, according to tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.
Those supertankers have the total capacity to ship 250 million barrels of crude oil to China, as signs suggest that Chinese imports in May and June could be higher than an estimated monthly decline in April.
Crude cargo loadings on tankers bound for China in April were high from the Far East ports in Russia, the U.S. Gulf Coast, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the data compiled by Bloomberg showed.
Weaker-than-expected Chinese economic data and an estimated fall in April crude oil imports compared to March have had the oil market concerned that China’s rebound in crude purchases may not be as high as many had expected earlier this year.
China’s imports of crude oil surged by 22.5% year-over-year in March to the highest monthly volumes in nearly three years, official data showed in the middle of April, as refiners increase fuel output to meet expected rising demand after the reopening. The import volumes in tons equal 12.3 million barrels per day (bpd)—the highest for any month since June 2020, and much higher than the 10.1 million bpd of crude oil imports in March 2022.
But Chinese imports are estimated to have slipped in April to less than 11 million bpd, down from the 12.3 million bpd in March.
The Chinese government, however, is set to issue a second batch of fuel export quotas to its large state refiners and big private refiners. Although expectations are that the total quotas in the second batch would be significantly lower than in the first batch of 2023, China could issue the new batch earlier than in June. Last year, the second batch of export quotas were announced in June.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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