China Boosts Crude Imports to Record on New Plant, Stockpiling

China, which uses more oil than any country except the U.S., raised daily crude imports to a record in April as a new refinery and stockpiling bolstered demand.

Overseas purchases increased to 27.88 million metric tons, according to data released today by the General Administration of Customs in Beijing. That’s about 6.81 million barrels a day, up from the previous record of 6.66 million in January.

“China imported more crude probably to fill inventory and meet demand that will rebound in June following the maintenance season,” Amy Sun, an analyst with ICIS-C1 Energy, said by phone from Guangzhou today.

Some of the overseas crude will go to refilling commercial inventories, Sun said. Stockpiles fell about 3 percent at the end of March from a month earlier, according to China Oil, Gas & Petrochemicals, published by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Imports also rose as Sinochem Group’s Quanzhou refinery in southeast China ramps up processing after starting commercial operations last month, Sun said. The plant should run at about 90 percent of its 241,000 barrel-a-day capacity by June, up from 70 percent now, according to Sun.

April’s record buying is also to fill the country’s strategic petroleum reserves, according to Sijin Cheng, a commodities analyst at Barclays Plc. China will add 39 million barrels to emergency stockpile sites at Tianjin and Huangdao during the first half of this year, Cheng said in a note to clients today.

The nation returned to a net oil product importer in April with 2.54 million tons of imports and 2.2 million tons of exports, today’s data show. Coal purchases were at 27.11 million tons and No. 5-7 fuel oil imports at 1.67 million tons.

— With assistance by Jing Yang

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