Singapore — China's LPG imports from the United States soared to 733,385 mt in May, comprising 629,822 mt of propane and 103,563 mt of butane, up from zero a year earlier, data from China's General Administration of Customs showed on June 26.
Receive daily email alerts, subscriber notes & personalize your experience.Register Now
This is a record high monthly volume from the US, and made it the largest LPG supplier to China in May. It eclipsed the previous record high monthly import from the US of 475,092 mt in December 2017, historical customs data showed.
Lower import costs for US LPG pushed up buying from the US in the month, as well as driving up the total LPG imports, according to market sources.
After being halted for nearly one and a half years China's LPG imports from the US started resuming in March as the government has given US LPG import tariff exemptions to many importers.
"The import costs of US LPG were very competitive during April and May compared with barrels from other regions," a trade source in Shanghai said, adding that prices for Middle East cargoes were high due to limited availability caused by the OPEC production cut.
Over the first five months of this year US imports now total 1 million mt, making it the third largest supplier, according to the customs data.
The UAE and Qatar were the second and third largest LPG suppliers to China in May and first and second over January-May, the data showed.
China imported around 2.012 million mt of LPG in May, up 8.5% on the year and 21.1% higher on the month, data from GAC showed, very close to the record high of 2.013 million mt seen in October 2018.
Propane imports at 1.47 million mt in May were up 13.5% on the year and by 9.3% month on month.
China's propane dehydrogenation plants operated at an average rate of 79% in May, up from an average of 77% in April, Platts reported earlier. The PDH plants enjoyed a theoretical processing margin of Yuan 1,423/mt in April, which was believed to have encouraged cracking demand, market sources said.
Butane imports meanwhile stood at 525,884 mt in May, down 2.9% on the year but up 71.8% on the month, the customs data showed.
Over January-May, China imported 7.57 million mt of LPG, down 5.7% on the year, the customs data said.
Propane imports were 5.79 million mt in the first five months of the year, down 1.7%, while butane imports were 1.71 million mt, down 18% on the year, according to the customs data.
Platts calculates China's LPG imports by adding the propane and butane figures to those categorized as "other LPG" under the HS code 7111990. This is to reflect China's import of liquefied gases more accurately.
According to the customs department, the definition of "other LPG" is a complex combination of hydrocarbons produced by the distillation of crude oil.
Market sources said it could be mixed gas containing many hydrocarbons and that it was mainly imported on trucks. However, imports of "other LPG" is much lower than that of propane and butane.
CHINA'S LPG IMPORTS (Unit: mt)
TOP FIVE LPG SUPPLIERS TO CHINA (Unit: mt)
*Includes other countries
*Total figures have been rounded off
Source: China's General Administration of Customs