China's crude oil processing runs in October rise to second highest on record

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s refiners raised crude oil processing runs to near record monthly levels in October as refining margins jumped after the country’s state planner hiked prices for gasoline and diesel at the pump.

Also on the rise last month, according to data released by China’s statistics bureau on Tuesday, was the country’s natural gas production - jumping 15 percent to a seven-month high as oil majors ramped up output to meet growing winter demand spurred by Beijing’s squeeze on the use of coal for heating.

The data showed crude runs rose 7.4 percent in October to 50.51 million tonnes, or 11.89 million barrels per day (bpd) on a daily basis, easing off the record pace of 12 million bpd set in September.

For the first 10 months of the year, refinery output rose 5 percent from the same period a year earlier to 468.92 million tonnes, or 11.26 million bpd.

“Throughput rose strongly as refiners expect margins to firm, with government raising retail fuel prices in tandem with spikes in the global crude oil market,” said Seng-Yick Tee, senior director at Beijing-based SIA Energy.

China’s state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), raised both gasoline and diesel retail prices by 150 yuan ($22.60) per tonne on Nov. 2, the second price hike in two months. The higher prices have boosted margins for both state owned and independent refineries.

The NDRC is set to adjust retail prices again on Nov. 16, with analysts and refiners forecasting another big hike in prices.

Meanwhile natural gas output rose 15 percent in October from the same month a year ago to 12.4 billion cubic meters, the highest since March.

Oil majors are ramping up domestic gas production at key fields like Changqing, and also boosting imports of pipeline gas and liquefied natural gas. Demand for the cleaner fuel is set to grow at the fastest pace sine 2011, spurred by Beijing’s gasification drive.

October domestic crude oil production inched down 0.4 percent on year to 16.01 million tonnes, or 3.77 million bpd, hovering close to August’ s record monthly low of 3.75 million bpd.

Reporting by Meng Meng and Aizhu Chen; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell