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China’s April Crude Oil Imports Retreat From Record Volumes

Beijing

China imported lower volumes of crude oil in April compared to the record-breaking imports in March, as seasonal refinery maintenance accounted for less crude needed to process, Reuters reported on Monday, citing data by the General Administration of Customs of China.

China bought 34.39 million tons of crude oil in April, equal to around 8.37 million barrels per day (bpd). This was almost 9 percent lower than the March crude oil imports, according to customs data compiled by Reuters.

With a daily import rate of 9.17 million barrels of crude oil in March, China broke its own previous record and overtook the U.S. as the largest importer of the commodity globally, both in March and in the year to date. One of the reasons for the spike in March imports was teapots scrambling to get crude after they finally received their import quotas from the government.

Although lower than the March rate, China’s crude oil imports in April were still 5.5 percent higher compared to April last year.

The volume of imports between January and April was 12.5 percent higher compared to the same period last year, according to the customs data, as quoted by Reuters.

The April decline from March was the result of both seasonal maintenance and independent refiners—the so-called teapots—buying less because they had reached their import quotas, Bloomberg quoted Jean Zou, an analyst at Shanghai-based commodities researcher ICIS-China, as saying.

Before the April imports figures were released, Tian Miao, a Beijing-based analyst at North Square Blue Oak, told Bloomberg:

“March imports were driven by stockpiling and inventory builds from teapot refineries, something that doesn’t happen very often, so that could easily be the monthly record for this year.”

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Last year, China met 64.4 percent of its crude oil demand with imports because of high production costs at home and favorable international prices resulting from the global glut. This was a 3.8-percent increase on 2015, Chinese media reported, adding that the level of dependency will increase further this year.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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