China Oil Imports Rebound; Coal Shipments Highest Since 2014

  • Crude imports rise to 7.77 million b/d, highest since April
  • Coal imports surge as domestic mining slows, prices increase

China’s crude oil imports increased to the highest in four months, while coal shipments jumped to the most since December 2014 as domestic production of both fuels declines.

The world’s biggest energy user imported 32.85 million metric tons of crude in August, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs on Thursday. That’s about 7.77 million barrels a day, the fastest pace since April. Coal imports jumped to 26.6 million tons.

China’s crude output has slipped this year as explorers cut spending to cope with the crash in oil prices. Meanwhile, coal mining has tumbled as the government of President Xi Jinping seeks to cut the nations’ overcapacity and reduce pollution. Crude production has fallen 5.1 percent during the first seven months of the year. Coal mining during that period slowed 10 percent.

“China’s oil producers won’t resume production at some high-cost oil fields at current crude prices, so imports will remain quite strong,” Tian Miao, an analyst with policy researcher North Square Blue Oak Ltd., said by phone. “The sharp increase in domestic coal prices amid production cuts have lured users to overseas supplies.”

The nation’s commercial crude stockpiles dropped 5.7 percent in July from the previous month, according to data from China Oil, Gas & Petrochemicals, a newsletter published by the official Xinhua News Agency. Refineries will gradually replenish their stockpiles in preparation for the up tick in processing as they come out of the peak refining season, Amy Sun, an analyst with ICIS China, said by phone before the data were released.

Spot power-station coal prices at the port of Qinhuangdao, a domestic benchmark, rose for the eighth week to an average of 505 yuan a ton as of Sunday, the highest in 19 months, according to data from the China Coal Transport and Distribution Association.

The country’s net fuel exports -- which strips out imports -- fell to 1.69 million tons, the lowest since May. Total natural gas imports slipped 9.7 percent from the previous month to 3.34 million tons, the lowest in almost a year.

— With assistance by Jing Yang

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