China Oil Refining Falls to Eight-Month Low; Power Output Gains

China’s crude processing fell to the lowest level in eight months in April as refineries shut units for maintenance and industrial production expanded at a slower pace than forecast. Electricity output increased.

Refining in the world’s second-largest oil consumer dropped to 9.36 million barrels a day last month, according to data published today on the website of the Beijing-based National Bureau of Statistics. That’s the lowest since August and 8 percent below December’s record.

China’s apparent oil demand, or domestic throughput plus net imports, was 9.66 million barrels a day last month, also the weakest since August, the data show. Industrial output rose 9.3 percent from a year earlier, compared with the 9.4 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., or Sinopec, the nation’s biggest refiner, will cut processing by 1.5 million metric tons this quarter from an earlier plan because of higher fuel stockpiles, ICIS C1 Energy, a Shanghai-based commodity researcher, said last month.

“April was this year’s first peak for refinery maintenance,” Li Li, an oil analyst at ICIS C1 Energy said by phone from Guangzhou. “Sinopec also cut processing amid sluggish fuel demand.”

The nation’s biggest refineries reduced their average operating rate to 80 percent as of April 3 because of maintenance, compared with 88 percent in mid-February, according to, a Shandong-based industry website. PetroChina Co.’s Dalian refinery, its biggest, shut a crude distillation unit with a capacity of 4.5 million tons a year on March 15 for a month, according to a company official.

Power, Coal

China generated 399.4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in April, up 6.2 percent compared from the same period last year, today’s data show. Output in the first four months climbed 3.8 percent to 1.59 trillion kilowatt-hours.

“Power growth in April might partly be due to ample rainfall in parts of southern China,” Helen Lau, a Hong Kong-based analyst at UOB-Kay Hian Ltd., said by phone. Hydropower output in the first three months of the year jumped 22 percent while thermal power climbed 0.5 percent, she said.

China’s domestic thermal coal demand and prices will stay around current levels this month, according to Lau. Power-station coal at Qinhuangdao port, the benchmark price for the nation, was unchanged from a week earlier at 605 yuan ($98.43) to 615 yuan a ton as of yesterday, according to data today from the China Coal Transport and Distribution Association.

China’s ethylene output in April climbed 3 percent from a year earlier to 1.25 million tons, the statistics bureau data showed.

— With assistance by Jing Yang, and Sarah Chen

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