By Chen Aizhu
SINGAPORE, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Chinese crude imports fell for a second straight year in 2022 despite a burst of buying in the fourth quarter, as the country’s strict COVID-19 control measures weighed on the economy and the demand for fuel.
Imports for the entire year of the first global buyer amounted to 508.28 million tons, equivalent to 10.17 million barrels per day, 0.9% less than in 2021, according to data from the General Administration of Customs.
That followed the 2021 slump, which marked the first annual decline in China’s oil imports in two decades. In 2020, imports reached a record 10.8 million bpd.
Imports slowed for most of the year as refiners grappled with thinning margins and weak fuel demand, but started to pick up in October when Beijing decided to support the industry by dramatically boosting oil exports. gas.
In December, refineries received 4% more crude than a year earlier, 48.07 million tonnes or some 11.3 million bpd, the third highest figure for 2022, as state refiners bought Saudi crude at prices lower officers and independents rushed to use the allotted quotas.
State refiners increased purchases of Saudi crude due to its lower price compared to November, while independent refiners chased deeply discounted Iranian oil trying to exhaust their quotas before the end of the year, traders and analysts said.
With the government focused on reviving economic growth this year after abandoning its tough COVID control measures, some analysts expect China’s crude imports to rebound strongly in 2023.
“China’s crude oil quota release schedule, heavier at first, indicates that Beijing expects non-state refiners to operate more in response to stronger demand after China reopens,” said Sun Jianan, a market analyst at China from Energy Aspects.
Data on Friday also showed fuel exports – including gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and marine fuel oil – reached 7.7 million tons in December, the highest since April 2020 and above 6, 14 million tons in November.
Annual fuel exports, however, remained 11% below 2021, at 53.69 million tons, due to sharp reductions in overseas shipments in early 2022, as the government then tried to curb excessive internal processing.
Last month, imports of natural gas by pipeline and in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG) reached 10.28 million tons, 12% less than in the same period of 2021. Annual imports fell by 9.9 %, up to 109.25 million tons, according to the data.
(Ton = 7.3 barrels for crude oil conversion)
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing in Spanish by Manuel Farías)