* Dec demand up 8.4 pct on year to record 10.52 mln bpd
* 2012 demand up 4.5 pct to 9.66 mln bpd, beating IEA
* 2013 demand growth may pick up as economy recovers
By Judy Hua and Chen Aizhu
BEIJING, Jan 18 China's fuel consumption in 2012
experienced the slowest growth since 2008, yet it beat forecasts
by the International Energy Agency (IEA), and the demand growth
is expected to accelerate this year as the country's economy
Implied oil demand in 2012 in the world's second-largest
fuel consumer rose 4.5 percent, or 420,000 bpd on the year,
according to Reuters calculations based on preliminary
government data, beating the IEA forecast for growth of 3.3
percent, or 301,000 bpd.
In December, implied oil demand rose 8.4 percent to a record
10.52 million bpd, a touch above the previous record in
November. The full-year consumption stood at 9.66 million bpd.
The 4.5 percent annual increase was slower than the 6.3
percent growth of 2011 and the double-digit growth in 2010.
Implied demand is a combination of crude oil throughput and
net imports of refined oil products, ignoring stocks changes,
which are seldom disclosed by the government.
In its December report, the IEA estimated Chinese oil demand
at 9.5 million bpd in 2012, up 3.3 percent from 2011. The agency
has forecast a similar, modest growth for this year at 3.2
percent, or 303,000 bpd, to 9.8 million bpd, "as economic growth
is expected to remain below its recent lofty heights."
Other analysts are more upbeat. Cheng Sijin, Barclays'
Singapore-based commodity analyst, expects demand to
continue recovering in 2013 with growth of around 460,000 bpd.
Cheng said the strong numbers for November and December may
have masked some stockbuilding following draws on inventory in
"With Chinese New Year in the first quarter and then spring
maintenance, it would be interesting to see if real demand picks
up quickly enough to keep inventories at a healthy level," she
The semi-official China Petroleum and Chemical Industry
Association (CPCIA) forecast this month that China's implied
consumption of oil products, mainly including gasoline, diesel
and kerosene, would grow 6.2 percent to 292 million tonnes in
Fuel consumption in China, the driver of global oil demand
growth in the last decade, was sluggish for most of 2012. But it
ticked up from September as the world's second-largest economy
showed some signs of recovery.
China's economy regained speed in the final quarter of 2012,
as it pulled out of a post-global financial crisis downturn that
produced the slowest year of economic growth since 1999.
Official data showed on Friday that China's economy grew 7.9
percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier with a bounce
that snapped seven straight quarters of slowing expansion. Full
year growth of 7.8 percent was just ahead of a Reuters poll's
7.7 percent call and comfortably ahead of the government's own
7.5 percent target.
RECORD CRUDE RUNS IN DEC
China's refinery throughput rose 8.4 percent in December
over a year earlier, and grew 3.7 percent for the whole of 2012,
data showed on Friday, slower than the previous year as demand
eased with a slowing economy.
Refineries processed 43.12 million tonnes, or a record 10.15
million barrels per day (bpd), of crude oil in December, the
National Bureau of Statistics said, as new refining capacity
came on stream.
Daily runs were around 0.2 percent, or 25,000 bpd, higher
than November's 10.125 million bpd, which topped the 10 million
bpd mark for the first time.
Crude runs for the whole of 2012 expanded 3.7 percent at
467.91 million tonnes, or 9.36 million bpd, the statistics
bureau said. That compared with 4.9 percent growth for 2011.
CPCIA forecast China's crude runs to rise 4.5 percent, or
roughly 416,000 bpd, this year.
Around 600,000 bpd of new refining capacity is expected to
be added in 2013, according to Reuters data, and Beijing's
expected move to revamp its fuel pricing scheme would help
bolster refinery throughput.
"With inflationary expectations largely benign at the
moment, the policymakers may have an incentive to make fuel
prices more flexible and react to crude prices more quickly,
which could protect steady margins by the refiners and encourage
runs," Barclays' Cheng said.
(Factbox of China's refinery plans: )
China's net imports of refined fuel rose 4.3 percent to
297,800 bpd in 2012. In December, net fuel imports fell 8.4
percent to 370,300 bpd.
For 2013, analysts expect China to stockpile crude as more
oil storage tanks will be ready. Stockpiles do not directly
contribute to implied oil demand, but filling the tanks would
boost crude imports.