China Crude Imports Rise to Record High as New Refineries Start

China, which consumes more oil than any country except the U.S., boosted net crude imports to a record high last month as two new refineries prepared to begin operations.

Overseas crude purchases exceeded exports by 26.69 million metric tons in December, according to data released on the website of the General Administration of Customs in Beijing today. That’s equivalent to 6.31 million barrels a day, 13 percent higher than the same month in 2012 and up 10 percent from November.

China, the first country to sell more than 20 million vehicles domestically in a year, is increasing crude purchases to meet fuel demand. Imports last year climbed by 4 percent to 282 million tons, or about 5.66 million barrels a day, the data show. The U.S. shipped about 7.81 million barrels a day in 2013, according to the Energy Information Administration.

“Two new refineries that are scheduled to come online in January helped boost crude imports last month,” Li Li, an analyst at ICIS-C1 Energy, said by phone from Guangzhou today. “Oil processing in December was also quite high amid a lack of maintenance shutdowns.”

Sinochem Group’s new Quanzhou refinery in the nation’s south, with a capacity of 12 million tons a year, is fed mostly by seaborne imports while PetroChina Co. (857)’s 10 million-ton plant in Sichuan uses piped supplies from Kazakhstan, she said.

China’s major refineries increased their average run rate to 87.2 percent as of Jan. 2, compared with 84.8 percent a month earlier, according to Oilchem.net, an industry website based in Shandong.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Jing Yang in Shanghai at jyang251@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Pratish Narayanan at pnarayanan9@bloomberg.net

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