* Nov crude imports at 5.52 mln bpd, +8.5 pct on yr
* Jan-Nov crude imports 5.07 mln bpd, + 6.1 pct on yr
* High imports match record refinery runs
* Second to all-time high at 5.67 mln bpd in Sept 2010
By Chen Aizhu
BEIJING, Dec 10 (Reuters) - China’s crude oil imports in November rose 8.5 percent over a year earlier to about 5.52 million barrels per day (bpd), the second highest on record on a daily basis, as refineries ramped up production to ease a domestic diesel shortage.
China, the world’s second-largest crude buyer after the United States, brought in 22.69 million tonnes crude in November, according to preliminary trade data posted at the website of the General Admini stration of Customs (www.customs.gov.cn).
That amount, equivalent to about 5.52 million bpd, rose 620,000 bpd, or nearly 13 percent from October’s level at 4.9 million bpd, and was just behind the all time high hit in September 2010 at 5.67 million bpd.
The hefty imports match China’s refinery production which hit a record last month at about 9.22 million bpd, as plants revved up output to cover a diesel shortage.
“The high refinery runs means you need that amount of crude imports. It’s also to compensate for the loss of Penglai oilfield,” said a Beijing-based oil trader.
Penglai 19-3, China’s largest offshore oilfield with daily output of about 168,000 barrels operated by U.S. firm Conocophillips, was ordered by Chinese government in early September to halt full productions due to an oil spill.
But traders also cautioned that the November data could have been exaggerated due to a week-long National Day holiday in early October that may have pushed the tally of import arrivals back into November.
The data also showed crude oil imports in the first 11 months rose 6.1 percent to 231.86 million tonnes, or 5.07 million bpd, versus the same period last year.
The pace eased from the near 18-percent rally in China’s crude oil imports for the whole of 2010, as overall fuel demand in the world’s No.2 user slowed amid high oil prices and a tightening credit policy.
In the general trade data released on Saturday, China’s exports expanded 13.8 percent year on year in November, the lowest in nine months, evidence of faltering demand abroad.
In November, China also raised oil product imports to 3.35 million tonnes, up 15 percent compared to October, the customs data showed, which traders said was partly because oil companies raised diesel imports to ease a domestic shortage.
The customs is due to release detailed oil and commodities data late this month.