SINGAPORE, Dec. 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- China's apparent* oil demand in November rose 2.6% year on year to 39.08 million metric tons (mt) or 9.54 million barrels per day (b/d) – the second-highest daily rate recorded this year, according to a just-released Platts analysis of statistics released by the government.
November's oil demand at 9.54 million b/d, which was just slightly less than February's 9.58-million-b/d level, was boosted by record-high refinery throughput as the Chinese oil companies ran their plants at full capacity to replenish depleting diesel stocks.
Oil demand in November was also the third-strongest according to Platts records, which date back to 2005. This November's oil consumption is less than December 2010's 9.62-million-b/d figure and this February's 9.58-million-b/d level.
"Local media have reported in recent weeks that widespread diesel shortages have once again affected the country, with long queues for limited supplies of diesel seen at retail stations in several provinces, prompting Beijing to call on the national oil companies to raise output," said Calvin Lee, Platts senior writer, China.
In November, Chinese refiners processed 37.87 million mt of crude, or an average 9.25 million b/d. This was 3.3% higher year on year, showed data from the country's National Bureau of Statistics.
Daily refinery throughput reached an all-time high last month as the country's two national oil companies – PetroChina and Sinopec – operated at full capacity after regular maintenance to replenish fast-depleting inventory, especially diesel.
Chinese companies produced 14.13 million mt of diesel in November, which was 5.2% more than October. Diesel output in November increased for the second straight month, after it dipped in August and September.
The production increase, coupled by an easing in consumption of refined products following the end of seasonal peak demand, resulted in a build-up in refined product stocks for the first time in six months, according to a report by the official Xinhua news agency.
Inventories of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel climbed 3.6% month on month by end-November, rising for the first time since May, Xinhua said.
In November, China imported 4.8% less refined oil products at 3.35 million mt, compared with a year ago, while oil product exports increased 2.9% to 2.14 million mt.
"The drop in imports is largely attributed to China reducing its reliance on imported diesel. Analysts say that there is a general shift by Chinese companies from importing diesel to importing crude oil to refine it into diesel themselves. Because retail prices are regulated by the government, refiners incur lower losses if they import crude to produce diesel compared with selling the higher priced imported diesel domestically," said Lee.
Looking ahead, China's apparent oil demand is expected to remain high in December.
China's economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, has in recent days twice tasked state-owned companies with ensuring there is adequate supply of coal, oil and natural gas during the upcoming winter to spring, which would translate into another month of high refinery throughput this month.
MONTHLY TRADE DATA IN MILLION METRIC TONS:
Net crude imports
*Platts calculates China's apparent or implied oil demand on the basis of crude throughput volumes at the domestic refineries and net oil product imports, as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics and Chinese customs.
The government releases data on imports, exports, domestic crude production and refinery throughput data, but does not give official data on the country's actual oil consumption figure and oil stockpiles. Official statistics on oil storage are released intermittently.
Platts releases its monthly calculation of China's apparent demand between the 18th and 26th of every month via press release and via its website. Any use of this information must be appropriately attributed to Platts.
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