China June crude oil throughput rises to record on new plants

SINGAPORE/BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s crude oil throughput rose to a record in June, up 7.7% from a year earlier, following the start-up of two new, large refineries, official data showed on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: A crude oil tanker is seen at Qingdao Port, Shandong province, China, April 21, 2019. Picture taken April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Crude processing volumes last month reached 53.7 million tonnes, or about 13.07 million barrels per day (bpd), beating the previous record in April of 12.68 million bpd, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The hefty processing rates were supported by the start up of two major new refineries. Private firm Hengli Petrochemical ramped up its 400,000-bpd refinery in Dalian to full capacity in late May and Zhejiang Petrochemical began trial runs at a similar-sized facility on the east coast.

“The high output data was mainly due to the two new plants, but still the figure exceeds our estimates as many refineries were shut for maintenance,” said Wang Zhao, an analyst with Sublime Information Co, a local consultancy, based in Zibo in eastern China’s Shandong province.

“We expect throughput to be lower in the coming months on extended plant shutdowns, because inventories of gasoline and diesel were at the high end and domestic fuel demand remained weak,” said Wang.

Refineries in Shandong, the country’s hub for smaller independent plants, cut throughput to curb losses after Hengli marketed gasoline at a 12% discount to the rates offered by plants in Shandong.

The NBS data also showed that China’s crude oil output last month climbed 1% from a year earlier to 16.1 million tonnes, or about 3.92 million bpd, up from May’s 3.82 million bpd.

First-half crude output rose 0.8% from a year ago to 95.39 million tonnes. The tepid growth highlights the geological challenges of mature fields and the lack of new discoveries that state oil majors face in trying to boost domestic oil output.

Natural gas production in June rose 13.1% from a year earlier to 13.9 billion cubic meters (bcm). Output for the first half increased 10.3% from a year earlier to 86.4 bcm.

The much faster growth in gas production, which exceeds analysts forecast of 6% to 8%, was spurred by state oil majors’ efforts in focusing spending increases on production of the cleaner burning fuel.

(1 tonne =7.3 barrels for crude oil conversion)

Reporting by Chen Aizhu in SINGAPORE and Muyu Xu in BEIJING; editing by Richard Pullin and Christian Schmollinger