China August crude oil imports rise as refiners resume buying

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BEIJING — China’s daily crude oil imports rose 8% in August from a month earlier, customs data showed on Tuesday, as refiners resumed purchases following the issue of new import quotas.

China, the world’s top crude oil buyer, brought in 44.53 million tonnes of oil last month, equivalent to 10.49 million barrels per day (bpd), according to data from the General Administration of Customs.

That compares with 9.71 million bpd in July, but was still lower than 11.18 million bpd in August 2020.

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Crude imports for the first eight months of 2021 reached 346.36 million tonnes, about 10.4 million bpd, down 5.7% from the same period last year.

China’s demand for crude oil is recovering after nearly five months of slower purchases, caused by a shortage of import quotas, with buyers increasing the pace of purchases and paying higher premiums to secure supplies.

The government was reported in local industry media to have granted 4.42 million tonnes of crude oil import quotas in August to four companies, but no official statement has been published.

Independent refiners in Shandong hiked their operation rates to 66.25% in late-August from 62.3% in mid-August, according to data tracked by China-based consultancy JLC.

A fourth batch of quotas is expected to be issued in September or October that could revive demand from independent refiners, also known as teapots, which account for a fifth of China’s imports.

Customs data on Tuesday also showed China’s refined oil product exports in August at 3.73 million tonnes, down from 4.64 million tonnes in July, hitting the lowest level since July 2020.

August’s natural gas imports, both piped and liquefied natural gas (LNG), were 10.44 million tonnes, up 11.5% year-on-year. (Reporting by Muyu Xu and Shivani Singh; Editing by Richard Pullin)