(Adds comment, background, comparative figures)
By Tom Miles and Eadie Chen
BEIJING Dec 10 China's crude oil imports in
November hit their lowest this year as the country's giant
refiners reined in buying due to brimming storage and weakening
demand amid a spreading global economic recession.
The world's second-largest oil user shipped in 13.36 million
tonnes of crude last month, or 3.25 million barrels per day,
official customs data showed on Wednesday, a 14.6 cut in daily
volumes from October and 1.8 percent down on November last year.
The lower import figure came despite diving crude oil prices
and renewed efforts by China to build strategic stockpiles.
The month-on-month decrease in imports was the first since
July, when refiners balked at record crude costs and lagging
domestic fuel prices. [OILSTAT/CN]
Gao Shixian, a senior researcher at the Energy Research
Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission
(NDRC), played down the importance of the drop in imports.
"I think monthly figures are quite volatile and it's
dangerous to generalise a trend now. But one thing for sure is
that China's oil demand will not drop sharply. Instead it will
only grow by a slower rate," he said.
For the first 11 months of the year, crude imports increased
9.5 percent to 164.51 million tonnes, data published on the
website of the General Administration of Customs showed
"Imports may remain anaemic in the coming months as demand
is normally weak during the Spring Festival season, but the
overall rate will stay positive," said Liu Youcheng, an oil
analyst with Hongyuan Securities.
Economic activity is often slow and irregular during China's
Lunar New Year holidays, which will begin on January 26.
"Oil filling (of government-owned tanks) was just a one-off
factor and the strategic storage capacity was also limited," he
China began pumping crude oil into its third strategic base
in east China last month and almost 40 percent of tanks had been
filled, after building up reserves last year in its first two
bases, sources told Reuters.
The four bases of the first phase of strategic storage will
be able to hold 100 million barrels of oil, or about one month's
While crude imports slipped, refined fuel imports rebounded
from October, with a 13 percent decrease in exports and a 4.5
percent slowdown in imports combining for an 18 percent gain in
net oil products imports during the month, according to Reuters
calculations. For a table, please click on [ID:nPEK10632].
In October, net fuel imports fell by more than half from the
previous month as China turned to stockpiles built up during the
run-up to the Olympics.
China has not adjusted its state-set fuel prices since June,
leaving its pump prices about 60 percent above U.S. prices, and
equivalent to a crude oil price of about $83.5 a barrel,
according to the NDRC.
It is almost twice the price of U.S. light crude CLc1,
which was trading at $43.17 on Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Jim Bai; Editing by Editing by