China's Five-Month Crude Oil Imports Rise 29% on Demand for Fuel, Power

China, the world’s second-biggest energy consumer, imported 29 percent more crude oil in the first five months of the year as faster economic growth boosted demand for motor fuel and electricity.

Oil purchases in the January-to-May period climbed to 95.7 million metric tons from a year earlier, according to preliminary data released by the General Administration of Customs in Beijing today.

A resurgent economy may push crude imports to an all-time high this year, according to a Feb. 4 estimate by China National Petroleum Corp., the country’s biggest oil company. The nation’s total exports in May jumped the most in six years and property prices rose at a near-record pace, data released by customs showed.

“The year-to-date figure is still a very strong number,” said Wang Aochao, head of China research at UOB-Kay Hian Ltd. in Shanghai. “Crude imports in January to April were extremely high and that must’ve boosted inventories.”

Imports for May fell to 17.84 million tons, or about 4.36 million barrels per day, while exports were at 190,000 tons.

“Imports of 17 to 18 million are actually normal,” UOB- Kay Hian’s Wang said.

China’s net imports of crude oil rose to a record in April as the recovery in the country’s sales of goods overseas spurred factory demand.

The country relied on imports for more than half its crude needs last year as a demand recovery outpaced growth in domestic output.

Fuel Imports

Imports of refined products including gasoline and diesel reached 3.18 million tons in May while exports totaled 2.69 million tons. The nation was a net exporter of oil products in December and January as refineries, running at high rates, produced more fuel than needed.

China may see an oversupply of oil products this year as the country adds an estimated 31.5 million tons a year of refining capacity, CNPC said on Feb. 4. China may increase its annual oil refining capacity by 50 percent in the next five years to meet rising demand, China Petrochemical Corp. said in a report on May 25.

The world’s biggest producer of coal exported 1.46 million tons of the resource last month. The customs department didn’t provide coal import numbers in today’s release.

To contact the reporter on this story: Baizhen Chua in Beijing at bchua14@bloomberg.net

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