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China’s Refiners Processed Most Crude in 11 Months in December

China’s refineries processed the most crude in 11 months in December as they prepared to meet increased fuel demand over the Lunar New Year holiday.

Processing rose 0.2 percent from a year earlier to about 42 million metric tons, the National Bureau of Statistics said in Beijing today. That’s equivalent to an average of 9.93 million barrels a day, exceeding November’s rate of 9.81 million.

Chinese refineries typically boost crude runs before the week-long new year to build inventories and supply gasoline as holiday travel increases. For 2013, processing volumes climbed 3.3 percent to 478.58 million tons, or 9.61 million barrels a day, the statistics bureau’s data show. China’s Lunar New Year begins on Jan. 31 and ends Feb. 6 this year.

“While existing major refineries reduced runs in January after a strong December, the addition of new capacity and lower stocks will help offset some holiday-related weakness,” Sijin Cheng, a commodities analyst at Barclays Plc in Singapore, said in an e-mailed report.

Sinochem Group’s Quanzhou refinery, which can process 12 million tons a year, began trial operations on Jan. 16, the company said on its website last week. PetroChina Co.’s Sichuan plant has also started production, according to the annual report of China National Petroleum Corp., the parent company.

China’s crude throughput may gain 5.1 percent to 509 million tons this year while processing capacity is forecast to expand 6.5 percent to 668 million tons, CNPC data show.

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