Platts Report: China Oil Demand Surged 7.4% in September from a Year Ago

Growth Rate Hit 15-Month High; China Imported Gasoline for 1st Time since Late-2011

Oct 27, 2014, 02:00 ET from Platts

SINGAPORE, Oct. 27, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- China's apparent oil demand* in September climbed to the second-highest level since 2005, with a growth rate that was the sharpest in 15 months, according to a just-released Platts analysis of Chinese government data. Platts began tracking apparent oil demand  in 2005.

Apparent oil demand in September was 42.34 million metric tons (mt), or an average 10.35 million barrels per day (b/d) – up 7.4% from the same month a year ago.

Analysts said previous stimulus measures by the local government, including loosening of credit controls; the lifting of the annual summer ban on fishing in China's waters; and autumn harvest activity in the farming sector buoyed domestic oil demand.

On a month-over-month basis, China's apparent oil demand in September rose 6.2% from August. During the first nine months of the year, total apparent oil demand was 9.95 million b/d, an increase of 1.8% from the same period last year.

Crude throughput by refineries in September jumped 9.1% year over year to 42.02 million mt, or an average 10.27 million b/d, according to the latest data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). This was also the second-highest level on record and marks the third time this year that China's refinery throughput exceeded 10 million b/d.

"The higher refinery run rates in September followed the end of a heavy schedule of refinery maintenance in summer," said Song Yen Ling, Platts senior writer for China. "Major refineries, including PetroChina's Lanzhou refinery and Sinopec's Shijiazhuang refinery, returned to full operations after being closed in part or full for maintenance or upgrades."

China's oil product imports tumbled 18.8% year over year to 2.47 million mt in September while outflows edged up 0.5% to 2.15 million mt, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs. While China's net imports in September were 320,000 mt, 64% lower than a year ago, China remains a net importer of oil products.

China's apparent demand for gasoil in September climbed 4.7% from a year ago to 14.46 million mt – the highest growth rate since September 2012. Last month's domestic production of the fuel was 14.68 million mt, up 5.8% on a year-over-year basis. Exports totaled 230,000 mt, the lowest volume since November 2013. Imports of gasoil were 10,000 mt in September, versus none in the same month a year ago.


Sep '14

Sep '13

% Chg

Aug '14

Jul '14

Jun '14


Net crude imports (million mt)








Crude production (million mt)








Apparent demand (million mt)








Apparent demand ('000 b/d)








Sources: China's General Administration of Customs, National Bureau of Statistics, Platts

Gasoline apparent demand in China continued on its upward trend, jumping 18.2% year over year to 8.7 million mt last month, posting the highest hike since March 2013. Domestic production surged 15.9% year over year to 9.03 million mt in September, while exports slid 16.3% year over year. Production was also up 26.5% month over month to 360,000 mt. China is not a typical importer of motor gasoline but September saw an arrival of nearly 33,000 mt from South Korea, the first sizable import volume since late 2011.

"This is quite unusual as China is well supplied and is a significant net exporter of gasoline to Asia," said Song. "The import is unlikely to be a longer term trend and could be a reflection of state-owned traders leveraging spot market conditions."

Fuel oil apparent demand in September fell 5.4% year over year to 2.52 million mt. Imports slumped 15.9% to 1.22 million mt, while exports fell 11% year over year to 650,000 mt, bringing net imports to 570,000 mt – a 20.8% decline from the same period a year ago.

Fuel oil demand from the country's independent "teapot" refineries has been waning as they turn away from their traditional cracking feedstock of imported straight-run fuel oil toward crude oil and a bitumen blend, known locally as asphalt.

Month-to-month demand in China is generally viewed to be subject to short-term anomalies which are of interest and important to note, but which often fail to reveal the country's underlying demand trends. Year-to-year comparisons are viewed by the marketplace to be more indicative of the country's energy profile.

*Platts calculates China's apparent or implied oil demand on the basis of crude throughput volumes at the domestic refineries and net oil product imports, as reported by the NBS and Chinese customs. Platts also takes into account undeclared revisions in NBS historical data.

The government releases data on imports, exports, domestic crude production and refinery throughput data, but does not give official data on the country's actual oil consumption figure and oil stockpiles. Official statistics on oil storage are released intermittently.

Platts releases its monthly calculation of China's apparent demand between the 18th and 26th of every month via press release and via its website. Any use of this information must be appropriately attributed to Platts. Platts uses a conversion rate of 7.33 barrels of crude per metric ton, the widely-accepted benchmark for markets East of Suez.

For more information on crude oil, visit the Platts website at For Chinese-language information on oil and the energy and metals markets, visit

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