* Total increases in Saudi oil imports around 120,000 bpd
* Sinopec Maoming just started 200,000 bpd crude unit
* Sinopec to raise Iraqi oil imports by similar amount
By Chen Aizhu and Judy Hua
BEIJING, Dec 7 China's crude oil imports from
Saudi Arabia are likely to rise about 11 percent next year,
faster than this year's growth rate, as refiners lift output in
anticipation of an economic recovery and an increase in fuel
demand, industry officials said.
China, the world's second-largest crude consumer, is
expected to buy about 1.17 million barrels per day (bpd) of
Saudi oil next year, 120,000 bpd more than this year's
contracted amount. The figures are based on estimates by
industry sources with direct knowledge of the supply situation.
China, which imports about 5.3 million bpd of crude a year,
is Saudi Arabia's third largest customer after the United States
and Japan. In the year to October, imports from Saudi grew 8.6
percent on the year to 1.06 million bpd, compared to growth of
12.6 percent in 2011.
Most Asian buyers are being forced to rework import plans to
factor in a cut in purchases from OPEC member Iran due to
tightening Western sanctions. China, Iran's top trading partner,
has cut imports by 22.2 percent in the January-October period
from a year earlier.
China sees Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, as a
strategic partner capable of providing stable supplies, and the
state energy companies of both nations are in a $10 billion
joint venture to build a 400,000-bpd refinery on Saudi Arabia's
Red Sea coast.
China's crude oil demand is one of the factors propping up
global crude prices, at around $100 per barrel .
This year, China's oil demand is forecast to grow just 2.8
percent in its slowest pace in more than a decade, the
International Energy Agency says, due to a slowdown in the
economy, but there are signs of a revival next
State-owned Sinopec Corp, Asia's largest refiner,
would take in more than 80 percent of the total Saudi supplies
to China. China's No.2 refiner, PetroChina, and
state-run Sinochem Corp, will use up the rest, the sources said.
"Sinopec's imports of Saudi crude have been increasing
steadily over the past years and are expected to rise further as
Sinopec's refining capacity will rise steadily over the next few
years," said one Chinese trader.
Sinopec is estimated to increase Saudi imports by up to
80,000 bpd, as it adds new refining facilities at two subsidiary
plants, a 200,000-bpd unit started in late November at Maoming
in south China and a 160,000-bpd unit at Jinling refinery in
east China. Sinopec and Aramco are expected to finalize the 2013
contract soon, traders said.
Most of the new capacity is geared towards processing high
sulphur, or sour, crude.
The volume for the Fujian refinery jointly owned by Sinopec,
Aramco and Exxon Mobil will remain the same, at 200,000
PetroChina will raise its 2013 Saudi
crude term volumes by 40,000 barrels per day (bpd) to around
160,000 bpd, up a third from 2012, trading executives have said.
The total increment matches the increase Sinopec agreed with
Iraq, the world's fastest growing crude exporter, as the
refining giant sought to diversify supplies.
"The oil we wanted from the Saudis is not necessarily what
they can provide," said a Sinopec trader.
Breakdowns of Saudi term buyers (in bpd), according to
Buyer 2013 2012
Unipec 760,000 680,000
FREP 200,000 200,000
Chinaoil 160,000 120,000
Sinochem 50,000 50,000
TOTAL 1.17 mln 1.05 mln