China's crude oil imports fell from a record high in July, snapping a three-month rally, as sluggish domestic fuel demand due to flooding capped refinery feedstock requirements.
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Crude imports fell 6.7% to 12.13 million b/d in July from a record high 12.99 million b/d in June, preliminary General Administration of Customs data released Aug. 7 showed.
However, the import volume remained above 12 million b/d for the second time on record, as Chinese buyers who rushed into the market to secure cheap crudes in March/April received their deliveries in the month due to ongoing port congestion.
The country's crude imports grew sharply from 9.72 million b/d in March amid COVID-19 pandemic.
GAC releases data in metric tons, which S&P Global Platts converts to barrels using a 7.33 conversion factor.
On metric tons basis, the country imported 51.29 million mt of crude in July, down 3.6% from June, the GAC data showed.
The month-on-month decline was more likely attributed to the state-owned sector as the crude imports for independent refineries surged to a fresh high of 4.68 million b/d in July from 4.4 million b/d seen in June, Platts data showed.
The high July volume took imports for the first seven months of 2020 to 11.01 million b/d, up 11.5% year on year, amid sustained low crude prices. The value of the crude inflows over January-July fell 23.7% on the year to $138.89 billion, the GAC data showed.
Looking forward in August, China's crude imports are likely to stay at a higher level due to the ongoing port congestion for discharging, analysts said.
Data intelligence firm Kpler said there were 79.16 million barrels of crude on tankers idled in Chinese waters for seven or more days in the week beginning Aug. 2.
The volume was four times of the normal levels seen before May 2020, despite easing from the record high of 88.61 million barrels seen in the week of June 29.
In September and October, however, the inflow volumes were expected to fall significantly as China halts its buying spree for August-loading cargoes amid high domestic stock, Platts reported.
China's oil product exports fell further to a 42-month low of 3.21 million mt in July from 3.88-3.89 million mt in June and May, the GAC data showed.
Exports were last lower at 3.04 million mt in January 2017.
Several refiners with Sinopec and PetroChina said last month that they were reluctant to export oil products as profit for domestic sales was better despite high inventory.
GAC does not release which products are included in its oil product imports/exports, but industry sources believe gasoline, gasoil, jet fuel, fuel oil and naphtha are in the basket.
Product exports over January-July dipped 2.7% on the year to 36.97 million mt, the data showed.
Meanwhile, China's oil product imports hit a 12-month low of 1.91 million mt in July.
As a result, the country's net oil product exports rose to 1.3 million mt in July from 378,000 mt in June, the GAC data showed.
China's preliminary import, export data
(Unit: million mt)
Source: China's General Administration of Customs