China’s crude oil imports averaged 11.52 million barrels per day (bpd) in September, up by 3.1 percent from August, but slowly returning to historical levels and starting to ease the congestion at Chinese ports, according to data from energy analytics services provider OilX.
Compared to September last year, Chinese crude oil imports jumped by 24.4 percent, or by 2.26 million bpd, OilX’s data showed.
“After growing for five consecutive months, floating storage in China fell for the first time, indicating that port congestion has started to ease,” oil analysts Juan Carlos Rodriguez and Valantis Markogiannakis wrote in a report on Monday.
China’s oil imports continue to grow compared with previous years, but they are easing off the record-highs seen earlier this summer when Chinese refiners imported cheap barrels they had snapped up in April at the lowest prices in decades.
“In fact, the number of loadings heading to China has reached a 6- month low and is now back in line with historical levels,” OilX’s analysts wrote.
“This moderation in the pace of imports should continue to alleviate the congestion seen in North China,” they added.
China’s floating storage fell for the first time in five months and is expected to continue to diminish as ports process the current backlog, according to OilX.
Utilization rate at refineries is stable at some 70 percent, but independent refiners could lower crude processing throughput in the medium term due to lower refining margins and stricter mechanisms for tax collection, the analysts said.
China imported record volumes of crude oil in May and June, as the oil-hungry nation attempted to benefit from the low oil prices in April. The bargain-hunting for dirt cheap oil resulted in queues at Chinese ports with tankers waiting for weeks to discharge crude that has likely been loaded three to four months ago.
Yet, China’s feast on low oil prices may now be over.