January 12, 2009 / 3:55 AM / 11 years ago

China oil imports recover on stockpiling

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s crude oil imports in December recovered from the year’s lowest in November, as oil firms, as well as the state, rushed to build up stocks following the crash in oil prices.

The increase came despite ample fuel supplies and sluggish demand at the pump as the economy took a worse-than-expected toll from the global financial crisis.

The world’s second-largest oil consuming country imported 14.37 million tonnes of crude oil in December, or 3.38 million barrels per day, a source familiar with the data said on Monday.

The rate would be 11.6 percent higher than a year earlier, and 4 percent higher than in November 2008 on a daily basis, according to a Reuters calculation.

The imports would bring China’s annual imports to a record high of 178.89 million tonnes, or 3.58 million barrels per day, 9.6 percent higher than in 2007.

Zhang Guobao, China’s energy chief, said last month that the country would take advantage of falling oil prices to boost oil and gas imports and push forward its strategic stockpiling plans.

Industry sources told Reuters that China filled nearly 40 percent of its third strategic oil base in Huangdao in November and more storage-filling was planned in December and January.

State-controlled Sinopec (0386.HK)(600028.SS) has also readied a massive new storing facility in coastal Zhejiang province while rival PetroChina (0857.HK)(601857.SS) has been filling oil tanks in northwestern Xinjiang region with Kazakh oil.

Reporting by Eadie Chen and Jim Bai, editing by Tom Miles

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