China crude imports strong on bullish economy, production fall


BEIJING�China's strong demand for crude oil and its crude production deficit will further bolster the country's appetite for crude oil imports this year and in years to come.

According to a government estimate, the country will import 75-80 million tonnes this year, after hitting a record 70 million tonnes last year. Beijing analysts have suggested the number will be closer to 90 million tonnes.

One reason for the strong crude import is that China is likely to maintain the ban on diesel and gasoline imports effective since September 1998. China suspended the diesel and gasoline imports in order to protect the margins of Chinese refineries in face of cheap imports.

The import increase is also attributed to high economic growth and the plateau of domestic crude production, which will stay about 163 million tonnes this year.

However, the refinery crude run is forecast by the government to rise by 7% on year to 215 million tons in 2001, meaning China's refineries will run at 90% of refining capacity.

The government said China will need to raise its crude import by 10-15 million tonnes a year over the next 10 years.

China will need about 268 million tonnes by 2005, and 328 million tonnes by 2010, but domestic production will only increase by a marginal 1% from last year to reach 180 million tons in 2010.

This does not take into account its crude export requirement for Japan, whereby China will export about 4 million tonnes/year of its Daqing crude to Japan in 2001-2005, based on a government-to-government agreement.

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec) is China�s largest crude importer, with plans to import about 68.9 million tonnes this year, up from last year�s 55 million tonnes.

Sinopec can only supply about 25% of its crude requirement of about 119 million tons/year from its own crude production.

PetroChina Co. Ltd., a unit of China National Petroleum Corp., plans to import 9.8 million metric tons of crude oil in 2001, up from 8 million tonnes last year.

The company�s crude production is expected to fall by 1.4% on year to 102.5 million tonnes this year.

The company will also export about 4.02 million tons of crude oil to Japanese power plants, about the same as in 2000.

China's crude oil imports for 2000 totaled 70.26 million tonnes, up 92% on year, with imports in December up 52% on year at 5.7 million tonnes.

Oman was the biggest crude exporter to China last year, with volume reaching 15.66 million tonnes, or accounting for 22.2% of the total. In 1999, Oman exported 5.02 million tonnes to China.

Angola has emerged as China's second largest crude provider, with 2000 exports reaching 8.636 million tonnes, compared with 2.88 million tonnes in 1999.

Other major exporters to China last year included Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.

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