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China Crude Oil, Gas Imports Continue Up In February

Crude oil and natural gas imports to China continued rising in February although they were off the all-time highs booked a few months ago, Reuters reports, citing customs data.

Crude oil imports stood at 39.22 million tons, or 10.23 million bpd, which was a 21.6-percent increase on the year and the fourth consecutive month of an import rate above 10 million tons. The hefty increase at the end of 2018 was a result of independent refiners’ rush to fill in their import quotas before the year’s end, but now imports have remained strong even at lower quotas that the Chinese Ministry of Commerce issued in January.

In natural gas, Chinese customs data showed the total intake, including LNG and pipeline shipments, stood at 7.55 million tons last month, which was down from January, when China imported 9.81 million tons of natural gas, but up on February 2018, by 8.8 percent.

China is on track to become the world’s largest LNG importer for more than a month as Japan continues restarting its nuclear reactors, which will affect its LNG imports negatively and lead it to cede the top spot in imports of liquefied natural gas to China sooner rather than later. In fact, there are projections China will become the largest consumer of imported LNG as soon as 2022.

In January, LNG imports to China broke all records reaching 6.55 million tons, up by 2 percent from the previous record set in December. However, the winter turned out milder than would justify this massive intake of LNG and many importers are stranded with more LNG than they can’t sell.

China’s total natural gas demand is expected to rise by 11.4 percent in 2019 over 2018, slower than the growth in previous years, according to analysts at the country’s largest oil and gas producer China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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