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China oil demand up a small amount…again


China’s apparent oil demand* in April rose 1.4% compared with the same month last year to 39.92 million metric tons (mt) or an average 9.75 million barrels per day (b/d), a just-released Platts analysis of Chinese government data showed.


The year-over-year growth in apparent oil demand in April was greater than the 0.5% recorded in the previous month.


On a month-over-month basis, apparent oil demand in April fell 0.7% from March. This was the third consecutive year that apparent oil demand has contracted in April from March and is counter to prior years, when demand traditionally accelerated in the second quarter. Analysts have said this is mainly because of muted pick-up in industrial activities this spring.


China’s refinery crude throughput volumes in April rose 3.8% from a year earlier to 9.67 million b/d, data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics showed May 13.


Net crude imports for April were up 21.2% from the same period a year ago. But the country’s net oil product imports plunged 72% year over year to 340,000 mt versus 1.22 million mt in April 2013, as oil product inflows fell 34.7% from a year earlier to 2.54 million mt. Exports of oil products also slumped 17.6% to 2.2 million mt last month.


“On a year-over-year basis, China’s oil products imports have been significantly lower since the second half of 2013 as demand growth remains sluggish amid stagnant economic recovery,” said Song Yen Ling, Platts senior writer for China.


“However, it is possible that actual oil consumption was higher than 9.75 million b/d in April, as gasoil and jet/kerosene stocks were drawn down during the month,” Song noted.


Over the first four months of the year, China’s apparent oil demand was essentially flat, rising just 0.2% from the same period of 2013 to 9.94 million b/d. This is an improvement on the first quarter, when overall apparent oil demand fell 0.6% year over year. In China’s individual oil products markets, gasoil apparent demand in April showed positive growth, edging up 0.9% year-over-year to 3.38 million b/d.


Domestic production rose 1.1 % year over year to 13.92 million mt. Net exports rose 10.3% from a year earlier to 320,000 mt.


Gasoline apparent demand surged 16.1% last month to 2.4 million b/d, on continued auto sales growth. Domestic output of the fuel by refiners gained 11.8% year over year to 8.77 million mt, while net exports fell some 34% year over year to 310,000 mt.


Fuel oil apparent demand slipped 9.7% year over year to 659,000 b/d last month, on the back of a 37% decline in net imports to 920,000 mt.


Domestic production of fuel oil last month was up 10.4% to 2.2 million mt, but this was not sufficient to offset the lower net imports. Consumption of imported fuel oil – used significantly as a raw material for the manufacturing of refined petroleum products by small, independent refiners known as “teapots”- has been hit in the last two years as the refiners have gained more access to domestic crude oil, which is an alternate feedstock.





Apr ’14 Apr ’13 % Chg Mar ’14 Feb ’14 Jan ’13 Dec ’13
Net crude imports (million mt) 27.88 23.00 +21.2 23.52 22.88 28.07 26.69
Crude production (million mt) 16.98 17.05 -0.4 17.64 16.11 17.58 17.90
Apparent demand* (million mt) 39.92 39.37 +1.4 41.55 40.56 40.11 42.76
Apparent demand* (‘000 b/d) 9,754 9,619 +1.4 9,825 10,618 9,484 10,111


^Sources: China’s General Administration of Customs, National Bureau of Statistics, Platts


Month-to-month demand in China is generally viewed as subject to short-term anomalies which are of interest and important to note, but which often fail to reveal the country’s underlying demand trends. Year-to-year comparisons are viewed by the marketplace to be more indicative of the country’s energy profile.


*Platts calculates China’s apparent or implied oil demand on the basis of crude throughput volumes at the domestic refineries and net oil product imports, as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics and Chinese (NBS) customs. Platts also takes into account undeclared revisions in NBS historical data.


The government releases data on imports, exports, domestic crude production and refinery throughput data, but does not give official data on the country’s actual oil consumption figure and oil stockpiles. Official statistics on oil storage are released intermittently.


Platts releases its monthly calculation of China’s apparent demand between the 18th and 26th of every month via press release and via its website. Any use of this information must be appropriately attributed to Platts.


Platts uses a conversion rate of 7.33 barrels of crude per metric ton, the widely accepted benchmark for markets East of Suez.


4 Comments on "China oil demand up a small amount…again"

  1. Davey on Tue, 27th May 2014 3:53 pm 

    I have read China is stocking it SPR in preparation for global economic fallout from the current political turmoils around the globe at the moment. I wonder how much of this action is relfected in the numbers. I am reading there are some very bad thing happening under the surface in the Chineese economy that will soon be reflected in declining oil demand if the economic pain excelerates.

  2. Juan Pueblo on Tue, 27th May 2014 4:08 pm 

    Davey, I agree that the issue of SPR was not addressed properly in the article, making the info provided less valuable. I was thinking the same thing as I read it.

  3. Makati1 on Tue, 27th May 2014 7:54 pm 

    As the info is from the Chinese government, and China is no more reliable in that area than any other country, how do we know exactly what they are doing? With something like oil flowing into China from many sources and methods, there is no practical way to track the totals. Or so it seems to me.

    We have no idea how much gold they have for the same reason. They produce their own oil, gold and many other rsources and I am sure all those numbers are fuzzy. But then, they should be stockpiling everything they need to keep their economy going in the rough waters ahead, just as we ‘prepers’ are doing in our personal lives.

  4. Davy, Hermann, MO on Tue, 27th May 2014 8:36 pm 

    Come on Mak , The other day you were bragging about their 10,000 tons gold like it was a given and now you say there is no way to know…which is it Mak. You are loosing credibility.

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