* Guanghui allowed to import 200,000 tonnes for 2014
* Volume less than a third of China's daily imports
* Minimal market impact as Guanghui owns no refinery
* Independent refineries awaiting market access
(Adds comment, independent refiners awaiting access)
By Fayen Wong and Chen Aizhu
SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Aug 28 China's Guanghui Energy
has received a crude oil import licence from the
government, becoming one of only a few private firms to win the
sought-after licence as Beijing slowly loosens its grip on the
While the licence was for just 200,000 tonnes in 2014 - less
than a third of China's daily imports - traders said the move
showed a gradual opening up the sector was on track, which could
lead to increased crude imports and greater investment.
Guanhui Energy said in a statement that its wholly owned
Xinjiang Guanghui Petroleum Co Ltd would be allowed to import
200,000 tonnes of crude oil for 2014, joining a market dominated
by Sinopec Corp and PetroChina since an
industry revamp in 1998.
China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, regulates
its oil imports via a quota system to ensure stable domestic
supply. The government has pledged to allow more private
participation in the energy sector as part of a broader move to
reform its clunky and inefficient state-owned sector.
Senior oil traders said the latest move was largely cosmetic
as Guanghui Energy, which operates in the natural gas and
coal-to-chemicals business, does not own an oil refinery and
would have to sell the oil to refiners owned mostly by Sinopec
Corp and PetroChina.
"As global oil prices become more stable, there will be less
financial risk for the government to open the market to smaller,
private players," said Gordon Kwan, head of oil and gas at
Nomura in Hong Kong.
Traders said Guanghui may have benefited from being an
active investor in China's oil and gas rich region of Xinjiang
in the remote northwest, an area Beijing is keen to develop. The
company also owns two oil blocks in Kazakhstan.
China's independent oil refineries, a main swing supplier of
the world's second-largest fuel market, have been eagerly
waiting for Beijing to grant them crude oil import permits. Long
deprived of crude oil as feedstock, the plants have to import
lower-quality fuel oil for processing into gasoline and diesel.
In the stock filing, Guanghui Energy did not give a quota
for next year. At 200,000 tonnes, it's less than one cargo of
very large crude vessel (VLCC), or less than a third of China's
The move to open up the tightly-controlled oil market also
comes as the Shanghai Futures Exchange is aiming to launch a
crude oil futures contract later this year that will also be
open to foreign investors.
As part of an ambitious plan for the contract to become a
key pricing index, experts have said that China will need
participation from more industry players to create enough
liquidity for the contract to succeed.
Shares in Guanghui Energy, which has oil and gas assets in
Kazakhstan, shot up over 10 percent in morning trade to an
eight-month high of 8.98 Hong Kong dollars, as investors hoped
it would benefit from its oil imports.
Apart from Sinopec and PetroChina, China, the world's
largest crude oil buyer after the United States, will allow
about 23 mainly state-linked firms to secure 29.1 million tonnes
of crude oil for 2014.
This is equal to roughly one tenth of China's total crude
imports, under so called "non-state trade" schemes.
Sinopec and PetroChina fall under "state" trade, and the
size of their quotas is largely at their discretion, based on
refinery production plans, Chinese traders say.
(Editing by Richard Pullin)