China’s crude oil imports for the first two months of 2021 reached 89.57 million tonnes, up 4.1% from a year ago and up 9.5% from the same period in 2019, bolstered by solid fuel demand and expanded refining capacity in the country.
Shipment of crude oil in January and February is equivalent to 11.08 million barrels per day (bpd), according to data published on Sunday by the General Administration of Customs. Customs did not reveal a break down for individual months.
Crude oil imports were disrupted early last year as the COVID-19 outbreak, first detected in the central Chinese central city of Wuhan, and subsequent lockdowns halted port operations and reduced fuel demand.
Fresh clusters of domestic coronavirus infections and Beijing’s curbs on holiday travel early this year could dent oil demand by as much as 400,000 barrels a day this quarter, but analysts do not expect this to derail the recovery in fuel consumption.
China raised non-state crude oil import quotas by 20% this year after the launch of new refining facilities at mega-refineries including Zhejiang Petrochemical Corp (ZPC) and Shenghong Petrochemical.
Purchases of crude are set to slow in the second quarter after the Brent price benchmark hit a 13-month high, cooling demand and capping refiners’ margins as they prepare to shut for planned maintenance.
China’s natural gas imports rose 17.4% to 20.80 million tonnes for the first two months from a year ago, as cold snaps boosted demand for winter heating fuel. Imports over the same period in 2019 were 17.36 million tonnes.
Exports of China’s refined oil products rose 1.9% for the January-February period from a year earlier to 10.96 million tonnes, the data showed.