China's August crude oil imports jump 13% on year as delayed cargoes clear customs

BEIJING/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - China’s crude oil imports in August climbed 13% from a year earlier, buoyed by hefty orders placed earlier this year when global oil prices collapsed and as cargoes previously delayed by congestion at arrival ports finally cleared customs.

Imports were 47.48 million tonnes last month, data released by the General Administration of Customs showed on Monday, equivalent to 11.18 million barrels per day (bpd). That was well below the monthly record of 12.94 million bpd set in June this year, but easily beat last year’s overall monthly average of 10.11 million bpd.

China, the world’s top crude oil importer, has been shipping in historically high volumes since May as bargain hunters snapped up cheap supply. Amid the jump in cargoes, oil storage tanks have filled up and major Chinese ports are still clogged, even though congestion has eased of late.

According to data tracked by Refinitiv, 20 vessels were waiting to discharge oil at Qingdao port, while 18 were queuing near Rizhao port in the refining hub of Shandong province as of Monday.

Analysts expect the number of shipments to ease as Chinese fuel demand has reached a peak, while oil prices are steadily recovering.

“But it’s unlikely to see a sharp fall in the coming months as China’s fuel demand remains robust,” said Li Yan, oil analyst from China-based Longzhong consultancy, speaking before Monday’s data was released.

For refined oil products, customs data showed exports in August jumped to 4.27 million tonnes from 3.21 million tonnes in July, as well as being 4.8% higher than in the same month last year.

Meanwhile total natural gas imports, including liquefied natural gas and piped gas, reached 9.36 million tonnes, up from both 7.35 million tonnes in July and 8.34 million tonnes in August 2019.

Reporting by Muyu Xu in Beijing and Chen Aizhu in Singapore; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Kenneth Maxwell