China's 2019 annual crude imports set record for 17th year

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – China’s crude oil imports in 2019 surged 9.5% from a year earlier, setting a record for a 17th straight year, as demand growth from new refineries built last year propelled purchases by the world’s biggest importer, data showed on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A VLCC oil tanker is seen at a crude oil terminal in Ningbo Zhoushan port, Zhejiang province, China May 16, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

Last year, China imported a record 506 million tonnes of crude oil, 9.5% above 2018’s level, according to data from the General Administration of Customs. That is equivalent to 10.12 million barrels per day (bpd), according to Reuters’ calculations based on the data.

Chinese crude imports have set records every year since 2003, according to customs data on Refinitiv Eikon.

December arrivals were 45.76 million tonnes, customs reported, equivalent to 10.78 million bpd, second only to the monthly record of 11.13 million bpd set in November.

The annual increase equates to 882,000 bpd in incremental purchases, largely because of demand from new plants that added 900,000 bpd to China’s oil-processing capacity, although some of the units started operating only in December.

December imports were boosted by private refiners using up their annual import quotas, while state plants stocked up on oil before the holiday shutdown that accompanies China’s Lunar New Year festival, which falls in late January this year.

“Chinese independent refineries, including two mega projects Hengli and Rongsheng, stepped up purchases before year-end to maximize the utilization of crude import quotas,” said Chen Jiyao, oil consultant at FGE.

However, state refiners likely

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