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China’s crude oil imports are estimated to have declined to an average of 9.62 million barrels per day (bpd) in September, down by 8.6 percent from the previous month, data from energy analytics provider OilX showed.
Chinese crude imports last month also dropped by 2.2 million bpd, or by 18.7 percent, compared to September 2020, OilX’s estimates show.
Last year in September, major Asian importers led by China imported a lot more crude oil, taking advantage of the cheap cargoes in the spring and summer when oil prices were half the level they are today.
Chinese crude imports last month continued to be weighed down by the stricter oversight on imports, refining operations, and market practices of refiners. In addition, Chinese economic activity moderated in September, further depressing crude oil imports, OilX’s oil analysts Juan Carlos Rodriguez and Valantis Markogiannakis said.
Loading of cargoes en route to China in September was close to the five-year average.
Yet, oil sitting in floating storage offshore China, Malaysia, and Singapore remains at high levels, suggesting that the increased scrutiny faced by independent refineries is weighing on imports, OilX’s analysts noted.
Since China increased earlier the scrutiny over the import and business practices of its independent refiners, commonly known as teapots, imports from those refiners have been lower.
Last month, refinery throughput at independent refiners bounced back from the lowest in more than a year seen in August. Independent Chinese refiners reduced their run rates to 4.3 million bpd in August, the lowest level in nearly a year and a half, OilX data showed last month.
In September, the crude throughput at the teapots recovered to 4.6 million bpd, up from the 17-month low in August, the analytics provider noted.
The “rebound could potentially show that independents have learned how to navigate the new regulatory landscape, however power rationing in some Chinese provinces may hinder refiners’ comeback,” OilX analysts said.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.