China's 2019 and December crude oil runs hit record highs

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s crude oil throughput rose to a record high in 2019 following the start-up of two mega-refineries, official data showed on Friday, with December posting the highest daily run-rate on record.

FILE PHOTO: An oil tanker unloads crude oil at a crude oil terminal in Zhoushan, Zhejiang province, China July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

The total amount of oil processed for the year reached 651.98 million tonnes, or about 13.04 million barrels per day (bpd) according to Reuters calculations, up 7.6% from 2018, National Bureau of Statistics figures showed.

Refinery runs in December came in at 58.51 million tonnes, or about 13.78 million barrels per day (bpd), up from 12.07 million bpd a year ago.

China added 28.5 million tonnes of new refining capacity in 2019 from mega-sized integrated refining plants, taking its total crude throughput capacity to 860 million tonnes.

The country is expected to launch at least another six refineries this year with combined oil processing capacity of 27 million tonnes, according to a think tank at China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC).

The group also forecast China’s crude oil throughput would grow to 675 million tonnes in 2020, with average utilization rate at refineries across the country to hold at around 75%.

The increased refining capacity and tepid demand in the local market knocked profit margins at refineries to around break-even in December, from a profit of nearly 300 yuan ($43.55) a ton in October, analysts estimated.

“Domestic demand for refined oil products is very weak, which sent prices of the refined products down and largely reduced the revenue at refineries, but meanwhile raw material prices were high,” said Wang Zhao, analyst at Sublime Information Corp, before the data was released.

Friday’s data also showed China’s domestic crude oil output fell 1.9% in December from a year earlier to 16.06 million tonnes, or about 3.78 million bpd.

For 2019, crude output edged up 0.8% on year, reaching 191.01 million tonnes.

Meanwhile, China’s natural gas production rose 7.5% year-on-year to 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) in December, while full year output rose to 173.6 bcm, up 9.8%, in line with a central government push to boost domestic supply.

Reporting by Shivani Singh and Muyu Xu, editing by Richard Pullin