China Coal Imports Rise to Record; Net Diesel Exports Gain

Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) -- China’s coal imports rose to a record in December and net diesel exports climbed to the most in more than two years.

Coal imports, including lignite, gained 31 percent from a year earlier to 35.11 million metric tons, according to data e-mailed by the General Administration of Customs today. That’s 21 percent higher than the previous record set in November. Net diesel exports, or overseas sales minus imports, increased to about 253,000 tons, the most since October 2010, the data show.

China, the world’s biggest energy user, boosted coal purchases from overseas markets amid an economic rebound and as international supplies traded at a discount to local fuel. Industrial output growth rose 10.3 percent in December for a fourth monthly gain, government data showed Jan. 18.

“Coal imports this year are expected to keep growing,” the China Coal Transport and Distribution Association said in a report on its website Jan. 16. “Local governments will further prioritize sustaining economic growth this year and all the infrastructure projects that were approved since September will also boost coal demand.”

Spot thermal coal with an energy value of 5,500 kilocalories per kilogram cost as much as 630 yuan ($101.20) a ton at the port of Qinhuangdao as of Jan. 13. The price at the Australian port of Newcastle, an Asian benchmark, was at $91.10 a ton on Jan. 11, data from IHS McCloskey show.

Diesel exports last month rose fivefold from a year ago to 362,400 tons while imports dropped 55 percent to 109,625 tons, the data show. Gasoline exports were at 246,835 tons.

China’s fuel oil imports rose 27.8 percent from November to 2.67 million tons in December, the highest in nine months, as the nation built up stockpiles ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays in February. Purchases fell 0.5 percent from a year earlier.

Exports of the product, mainly supplied to ships as so-called bunker fuel, increased to 1.12 million tons last month, the highest in four months. Imports of the residue declined 0.1 percent to 26.9 million tons last year. China also buys fuel oil as feedstock for smaller, independent refineries to produce gasoline and diesel.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Jing Yang in Shanghai at jyang251@bloomberg.net; Winnie Zhu in Singapore at wzhu4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alexander Kwiatkowski at akwiatkowsk2@bloomberg.net