Singapore — China's crude oil stocks as of end-October rose 29.09 million barrels from a month earlier, and stocks are expected to continue building in November on high crude oil imports amid a slowdown in refinery throughput.
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The stockbuild in October surged 416.7% from the build in September, and contrasted sharply to a draw of 26.81 million barrels in the same month last year, S&P Global Platts calculations based on official data showed.
The high stockpile was within expectations as crude supply rose to a historical high, outstripping the increase in refinery throughput.
China does not release official data on stocks. Platts calculates the country's net build or draw in crude stocks by subtracting official refinery throughput data from the country's crude supply data. The latter takes into account net crude imports and domestic production.
China's overall crude supply in October surged 21.3% from a year ago to 415.96 million barrels, and rose 8.9% from September led by a sharp increase in net crude imports while domestic crude output was largely rangebound.
Buoyed by strong buying from the independent sector, China's net crude imports soared 32.2% year on year to 298.02 million barrels in October, data released by the General Administration of Customs showed.
Crude throughput at refineries rose 4.6% year on year to a record high of 386.88 million barrels in October, data released by the National Bureau of Statistics showed. But the increase lagged the sharp growth in crude supply.
This means monthly crude supply was 29.09 million barrels higher than throughput in October.
By the end of October, China's crude stocks rose 197 million barrels compared with the level at the end of December last year, which compares with 266 million barrels a year earlier.
RESTOCKING AMID HIGH IMPORTS
China's crude stocks are expected to rise substantially in November due to continuously high crude imports by the year-end and a slowdown in throughput amid weakening oil product demand.
Platts trade flow software cFlow showed crude cargoes for delivery to Chinese ports in November are likely to rise 2% from October to 8.89 million b/d.
China imports crude through seaports and pipelines, while Platts cFlow data covers deliveries from the seaborne market.
Independent refineries' crude imports remain high. "Propelled by strong buying [from the independent sector], it is likely that their imports will stay above 9 million mt [2.16 million b/d] in the coming two months," a Beijing-based analyst said.
Crude imports by the independent sector rose 28% month on month to a seven-month high of 2.2 million b/d in October, according to a Platts survey.
Independent refineries typically try to use up their crude oil import quotas before the end of the year, so that they can secure full allocations for the next year. After taking October deliveries into account, around 40 million mt is still available for the November-December period, Platts data showed.
Meanwhile, "refining demand is weakening as the peak season for oil products will nearly end in winter, while they are not allowed to send more products to overseas in Q4," the analyst added.
Refining sources from both the state-owned and independent sector said they have seen a slowdown in gasoline sales amid high production in October and weak domestic demand.
"Cutting throughput is the only way to offset pressure from rising gasoline stock," said a refiner in northern China.
State-owned and independent refineries account for around 75% and 25% of China's total refining capacity, respectively.
China's October, January-October crude data:
*S&P Global Platts calculations
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