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CORRECTED-China's 2020 crude oil imports jump 7.3% to record on low prices, new refineries

(Corrects to add dropped word million in second paragraph)

BEIJING/SINGAPORE, Jan 14 (Reuters) - China’s total crude oil imports surged 7.3% in 2020 despite the coronavirus shock early in the year, with record arrivals in the second and third quarter amid plunging oil prices and expanding refineries, data showed on Thursday.

For 2020, the world’s top oil buyer brought in a record 542.37 million tonnes of crude oil, or 10.85 million barrels per day (bpd).

December shipments were 38.47 million tonnes, equivalent to 9.06 million bpd, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs on Thursday.

That was down about 15% from 10.71 million bpd in December last year and off 11.04 million bpd in November.

The strong flows followed feverish buying when crude prices plummeted to the lowest in decades and robust domestic demand as the economy quickly recovered from the coronavirus pandemic.

Expansions at state-owned refineries and the launch of new facilities by privately owned Zhejiang Petrochemical Corp further boosted China’s appetite for the fossil fuel.

Beijing has raised the first batch of crude oil import quotas for non-state companies by 18% to 122.59 million tonnes in 2021 from the first-round in 2020, reflecting the increased capacity.

Customs data also showed imports of natural gas, including fuel supplied as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and via pipeline, reached a record 11.23 million tonnes in December.

Full year imports rose 5.3% to 101.66 million tonnes, as a harsh winter and a stunning manufacturing recovery boosted energy demand in spite of multi-year high gas prices.

Shiptracking data showed earlier China’s December LNG imports soared to a record of over 9 million tonnes, overtaking Japan for the second month in a row as the world’s No.1 buyer. (tonne=7.3 barrels for crude oil conversion)

Reporting by Muyu Xu in Beijing and Chen Aizhu in Singapore; Editing by Kim Coghill

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