China Oct crude oil imports drop to lowest in more than a year

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s October crude oil imports slid to their lowest monthly level in 13 months, tumbling from a near record in September, as buying from independent refiners slowed with their import quotas draining away.

Data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Wednesday that imports stood at 31.03 million tonnes in October, or 7.3 million barrels per day (bpd), up from the same month a year earlier but well below about 9 million bpd in September.

“Lower imports reflected less purchases from independent refineries as many of them are running out of crude quota for this year,” said Li Yan, oil analyst with Zibo Longzhong Information Group.

The lower imports in October were a surprise, the analyst said, as crude demand usually picks up in the fourth quarter with refiners’ processing rates strong.

The import data came as China’s Commerce Ministry set its 2018 crude oil import quota for non-state companies at 142.42 million tonnes, an increase of more than 50 percent, with markets expecting China to buy more crude this year. [L3N1NE1IG]

Meanwhile gas arrivals including pipeline imports and LNG shipments reached 5.81 million tonnes, retreating from September but up from only 3.82 million tonnes last year.

For the year to date, natural gas imports grew 25 percent to 54.16 million tonnes, higher than last year’s total import volume of 54 million tonnes and hitting a record.

Surging gas consumption from both residential households and the industrial sector has pushed up spot liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices and led to worries that the world’s largest energy consumer might faces winter shortages.

CNPC, one of the country’s largest gas producers, already plans to cut natural gas supplies to industrial users.

Reporting by Josephine Mason and Meng Meng; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell