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China’s Apparent Oil Demand Dips in April for First Yearly Decline Since 2022

Chinese refiners processed lower crude volumes in April due to maintenance, while apparent oil demand in the world’s top importer of the commodity fell for the first time on an annual basis since the end of 2022.

Chinese government data showed on Friday that crude processing rates fell by nearly 4% year-over-year to 14.36 million barrels per day (bpd) in April, due to the start of maintenance season at refineries.  

Apparent oil demand in China declined by 3% in April compared to the same month last year. This marked the first annual fall in Chinese apparent oil demand since December 2022, per calculations by Bloomberg based on official figures from the Chinese authorities.

At the same time, Chinese imports of crude oil rose by 5.45% year-on-year in April as refiners stocked up on crude to prepare for the five-day local Labor Day weekend that began on May 1, government data showed earlier this month.

Last month, Chinese refiners imported 10.88 million bpd of crude oil, up compared to 10.4 million bpd imported for the same month of 2023, per data from the General Administration of Customs.

However, Chinese crude imports in April this year slumped from the levels from the previous month. 

Much of the increase in Chinese crude oil imports in the first quarter of 2024 was due to cheap abundant flows of Russian crude, which – hampered en route to India by the U.S. sanctions – has found a home in the world’s top oil importer, analysts say.

But in April, imports fell compared to March amid rising oil prices at the time cargoes were contracted.

Manufacturing recovery in China was again muted in April, while the property crisis continues to weigh on construction-intensive fuels such as diesel.  

“[S]tronger YoY crude oil imports coupled with lower refinery activity meant that crude oil stocks grew at a pace of a little over 800k b/d in April,” ING commodities strategists Warren Patterson and Ewa Manthey wrote in a Friday note, commenting on China’s apparent oil demand, crude processing rates, and imports.

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on May 17 2024 said:
    This is of no importance as the reason could be refinery maintenance or late arrival of Chinese crude imports or crowding at Chinese ports.

    Therefore, we shouldn’t attach much significance to this since Chinese crude imports were already 6.9% higher in the first four months of 2024 compared with the same period in 2033.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Dxpert

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