China’s crude oil imports rebounded to the second highest on record in May, making China the world’s top buyer for the month amid concerns over tightening crude supply to Asia and an extension of producer cuts to March next year.
China imported 37.2 million tonnes or 8.76 million barrels per day of crude oil last month, up 15 percent from a year earlier and nearly 8 percent from April, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
Imports compared with average shipments to the United States in May of 8.12 million bpd, according to Reuters calculations based on EIA weekly data.
The robust May shipments reflected steady demand from private refiners, Li Yan, a crude oil analyst with Zibo Longzhong Information Group said.
“China’s May crude imports were mainly driven by purchases from some Shandong-based independent refineries that had sent China’s crude imports to record high in March. In the first five months, we are seeing a steady pace of buying from these ‘teapot’ refineries which reported good profit margins,” Li said.
For the year to end-May, crude imports rose more than 13 percent from a year earlier to 176.3 million tonnes or 8.52 million bpd, the customs data showed.
However, private refiners are expected to tighten their intake for at least the next two months, analysts and traders said, ambushed by a rising local fuel glut.
Imports by the world’s second-biggest oil consumer had slipped from a peak of 9.2 million bpd in March to 8.4 million bpd in April.
China’s exports of refined products rose 6 percent in May to 4.03 million tonnes as state refiners sold more abraod in a bid to counter a domestic oversupply.