Chinese imports of crude oil surged by 22.5% year-over-year in March to the highest monthly volumes in nearly three years, since June 2020, official data showed on Thursday as refiners are increasing fuel output to meet expected rising demand after the reopening.
Last month, China imported as much as 52.3 million tons of crude oil, per data from the country’s General Administration of Customs cited by Reuters. The import volumes in tons equal 12.3 million barrels per day (bpd)—the highest for any month since June 2020, and much higher than the 10.1 million bpd of crude oil imports in March 2022.
For the first quarter, China’s crude oil imports rose by 6.7% compared to the same period in 2022, according to the customs data.
Refiners in China have ramped up refinery runs in recent weeks, preparing for a rise in consumption and looking to capture strong margins, now that the country has ditched its “zero-Covid” policies and removed the strict curbs on travel.
A rebound in crude oil demand, as the Chinese economy returns to normal operation, pushed crude oil throughputs at refineries higher by 3.3% over the first two months of the year. At an average of 14.36 million bpd, per Reuters, Chinese refinery throughputs in January to February compared with 13.98 million bpd for the first two months of 2022 and 14.1 million bpd for December 2022.
Because of a rebound in economic activity, many expect demand for crude oil in China to surge to new record highs, driving record imports, too.
China’s economic growth could exceed official targets and consumer mobility and spending could surge after the reopening to super-charge a renewed increase in energy commodity prices, especially crude oil, Wood Mackenzie said in a report at the end of March.
Under WoodMac’s base-case scenario, Chinese oil demand would rise by 1 million bpd this year, driving the expected 2.6-million-bpd growth in global oil consumption. In a high-growth scenario, the world’s top crude oil importer could see oil demand jumping by 1.4 million bpd on the year, or about 400,000 bpd higher than in the base case, driving up oil prices by another $3-$5 per barrel compared to the base case.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:
- 5 Trends Driving The Oil And Gas Industry In 2023
- OPEC+ Oil Production Sees Biggest Drop In 10 Months
- U.S. To Take Action Against Hungary For Sanctions-Busting