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China’s Oct crude oil imports fall 14% on year to 14-month low

China’s crude oil imports in October fell 13.8% year on year to 20.41 million mt or an average 4.83 million b/d, according to preliminary data released by the General Administration of Customs Friday.

This is the first time this year that crude oil imports have fallen below 5 million b/d and the volume was the lowest daily average since August 2012, when crude oil imports stood at 4.35 million b/d.

They were also down 23% from the record high of 6.27 million b/d imported in September.

On the other hand, crude oil exports in October fell to 110,000 mt, down 68.6% year on year, according to the customs data. They were, however, up from 70,000 mt exported in September.

This brought net crude oil imports in October to 20.3 million mt, or an average of 4.8 million b/d, down 13% from October 2012.

There were relatively lower crude imports last month because record imports in September had pushed up commercial inventories to historically high levels, Barclays Research said in a note Friday.

A few state-owned refineries were also shut over September and October for maintenance, including Sinopec’s 471,932 b/d Maoming refinery in Guangdong, which was shut from October 10 for over a month for upgrades and overall maintenance. Operations at PetroChina’s 140,575 b/d Jinxi Petrochemical refinery were also suspended for 45 days from September 1 for a scheduled turnaround.

From January to October this year, China’s total crude imports gained 3.4% year on year to 231.62 million mt or an average 5.58 million b/d, the data showed. This was lower than the 7.1% year-on-year growth in crude oil imports seen over the same period of 2012.

Crude oil exports over January to October plunged 35.9% year on year to 1.43 million mt.

Oil product imports last month also fell 8.8% year on year to 2.92 million mt, while exports surged 31.7% year on year to 2.41 million mt. This resulted in net oil product imports of just 510,000 mt, a 62.8% plunge compared with October last year.

The government has awarded significantly higher oil product export quotas to state-owned refiners for the fourth quarter but October exports were only 5% higher than the third-quarter average, largely due to refinery maintenance, and because two new refineries that were slated to start operations at the end of the year — PetroChina’s 200,000 b/d Pengzhou facility and Sinochem’s 240,000 b/d Quanzhou refinery — have yet to come online, Barclays said.

China’s overall oil product imports over the first 10 months of the year rose 3.8% year on year to 33.38 million mt, the data showed. Oil product exports over the same period rose 21.1% year on year to 23.76 million mt.

Preliminary output data for October, including refinery throughput, is scheduled to be released November 9.

Source: platts.com

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