China Turning Net Fuel Exporter May Be on Data Switch, ICIS Says

Chinese data showing the country became a net fuel exporter for the first time in four years may be due to the exclusion of one type of oil product, according to a Shanghai-based commodities researcher.

The nation exported 370,000 metric tons of oil products more than it imported in March, figures from the General Administration of Customs showed yesterday. It’s the first time China switched from being a net importer of fuels since January 2010, according to data tracked by Bloomberg.

The preliminary official data lumps all products together, including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. The figures are tracked by oil traders as shipments to and from China can impact supply and demand in the Asia-Pacific region. The customs administration may have removed fuel oil, used in power plants and ships, from the total volumes and that could have accounted for the change, according to commodities researcher ICIS-C1.

“The switch to net exporter may be because customs excluded a type of product in its statistic starting this year, which we believe is fuel oil,” Chen Li, an analyst with ICIS-C1, said by phone from Guangzhou today. “Exports are pretty steady and imports are falling a bit.”

China is currently a net exporter of diesel, gasoline and kerosene and will remain so in the second quarter of the year, according to Chen. The Beijing-based customs administration didn’t elaborate on the scope of oil products in its data. Two calls to the agency weren’t answered.

China imported 1.55 million tons of fuel oil in March, compared with an average of 1.96 million tons during each month in 2013, according to data tracked by ICIS. The customs administration is scheduled to release detailed March product trade data on April 21.

The world’s second-largest oil consumer faces an oversupply as refiners process crude at a faster rate than product consumption is expanding. China’s oil demand is forecast to grow this year at the slowest pace since 2009 and it will face 34 million tons per year of excess fuel supply by 2020, according to China National Petroleum Corp., the nation’s top energy producer.

— With assistance by Sarah Chen

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