China’s apparent oil demand in December 2016 rose 2.3% year over year to 11.69 million barrels per day, according to an analysis of Chinese government data by S&P Global Platts on February 13.
Refinery throughput in December last year averaged 11.31 million barrels per day, data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed January 20. This was up 3.6% year over year to a new record high, as refinery maintenance tapered off and production picked up in preparation for higher demand in the first quarter of 2017.
Platts China Oil Analytics said in a press release that it has adjusted runs for December upwards to 11.63 million barrels per day based on data on independent refinery run rates. China’s imports of key oil products – fuel oil, gasoil, jet fuel, gasoline, naphtha and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) — averaged 1.0 million barrels per day in December, data from China’s General Administration of Customs showed. Exports rose to 972,000 barrels per day from November’s 851,000 barrels per day. This means net imports during December averaged 62,000 barrels per day, slumping 88% from the same month in 2015.
When using official government data for calculations, China’s apparent oil demand in 2016 averaged 11.11 million barrels per day in 2016, declining 0.8%. However, Platts China Oil Analytics said it believes refinery-processing volumes last year averaged 11.08 million barrels per day – versus 10.83 million barrels per day reported by the NBS. Last year’s increase followed significantly higher runs by independent refiners, which received beginning late 2015 the right to import crude oil. These refiners, mainly in eastern Shandong, raised utilisation rates to an average 54% last year, up from approximately 40% in 2015. Thus, this group likely saw overall runs increase by more than 500,000 barrels per day in 2016.
With the adjustment in refinery runs, apparent oil demand for the year therefore trended higher than if calculated using government data, at 11.35 million barrels per day, the press release read.
“This represented a 1.3% increase in 2016,” said Song Yen Ling, senior analyst with Platts China Oil Analytics. “That said, the pace of growth fell in 2016 from 6.6% in 2015, when oil demand had been boosted by a crude oil price drop to levels just over $50 per barrel.