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China crude imports down 15% on yr, gas importations at 9-mth high

China crude imports down 15% on yr, gas importations at 9-mth high

China's September crude oil imports fell 15.3% from a year earlier, according to data on Wednesday, as firms relied on inventories amid rising global prices and tightened import quotas continued to restrict purchases.

Meanwhile, natural gas imports climbed to the highest since January with 10.62 million tonnes, according to data from the General Administration of Customs, as businesses built up inventories ahead of the peak winter heating season amid a shortage of coal for electricity production, which has triggered widespread power outages.

China, the world's top crude oil buyer, sold 41.05 million tonnes of crude crude last month, or about 9.99 million barrels per day (bpd). 10.49 million bpd in August and 11.8 million, respectively, compared to 11.1 million BpD a year earlier.

Imports for the first 9 months of 2021 were down 6.8% from the same period last year at 387.4 million tonnes, pushed lower by a rise in purchases since April due to tightened quotas both for crude oil and refined fuel.

"China's ambitions to reduce commodity prices by utilizing commercial and strategic reserves, combined with power cuts in the industrial sector that cut into fuel demand, caused a downward pressure on crude oil imports," said Seng Yick Tee, SIA Energy'' senior director.

Beijing has since the April-May period taken a slew of measures aimed at reducing its burgeoning oil refining industry, from looking into illegal trade of import quotas to imposing new taxes to curb unneeded fuel supplies.

It also cut export quotas for refined fuel, a business dominated by state refiners, effectively limiting crude throughput on these state majors like Sinopec Corp. read more

Independent refiners, including smaller factories based in Shandong and mega-integrated refineries like Zhejiang Petrochemical Corp, are awaiting a fourth batch of crude import quotas for 2021, which are expected to be released later this month.

China sold about 4.4 million barrels of oil in its first-ever state reserve auction in late September to assess its pricing influence and halt domestic inflation. read more

China's refined oil product exports totaled 4.14 million tonnes last month, the second lowest level this year, thanks to a government freeze on export permits. That was higher than the 3.73 million tonnes exported of refined oil products in August.

(1 tonne of crude oil = 7.3 barrels)

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