Platts Report: China Oil Demand Rose 1.9% in May Versus a Year Ago

Refinery Utilization Rates Muted; Net Oil Products Imports Fell 10.1% Year Over Year

Jun 25, 2013, 11:49 ET from Platts

SINGAPORE, June 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- China's apparent oil demand* in May rose by 1.9% to an average 9.53 million barrels per day (b/d) or 40.31 million metric tons (mt), a just-released Platts analysis of Chinese government data showed.

This is a nine-month low since August 2012, when demand averaged 8.95 million b/d and followed a 2.1% year-over-year increase in apparent oil demand in April to an average 9.66 million b/d.

Refinery runs, or capacity utilization, dipped 1.3% in May versus April to 9.24 million b/d, but were 2.4% higher than in May 2012, according to data released June 9 by China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

China's General Administration of Customs data released June 21 showed net oil products imports on a year-over-year basis fell 10.1% in May to 1.25 million mt, largely due to a 32.2% jump in oil product exports to 2.75 million mt.

China's gasoline exports more than doubled in May versus a year ago to 420,000 mt, while gasoil exports rose 27.8% vis-a-vis May 2012 to 230,000 mt. Naphtha exports more than quadrupled to 90,000 mt in May compared to the year-over-year data.

For the first five months of 2013, China's apparent demand grew 2.5% compared with the same period of 2012 to an average 9.85 million b/d. This is considerably slower than the 7% to 9% growth seen in late 2012.

"The economy has not rebounded as expected, causing industry experts and analysts to downwardly revise their estimates of China's gross domestic product for the second half," said Song Yen Ling, Platts senior writer for China. "This means apparent demand growth could likely stay in the low single-digit rates until the end of this year."

Apparent demand for gasoil, which makes up the largest component of overall oil product demand, contracted by 3% year over year in May to 14.1 million mt. Domestic output fell by 1.6% year over year to 14.28 million mt  and net exports totaled 180,000 mt, compared with net imports of 20,000 mt in May last year. While China is typically balanced in gasoil, additional refining capacity coupled with stagnant domestic demand has resulted in domestic oversupply, prompting refiners to export significant volumes of the fuel.

Gasoline apparent demand in May grew robustly in response to sustained automobile sales. Demand rose by 10.8% to 7.79 million mt in May versus a year ago, buoyed by the 14.7% annual increase in domestic production to 8.21 million mt for the month. China does not typically import gasoline.

Jet/kerosene apparent demand rose 12.7% compared with a year earlier to 1.85 million mt, similarly due to an increase in output of 19.5% to 2.14 million mt. China is typically a slight net exporter of jet/kerosene. Volumes of net exports in May increased by 93.3% year over year to 290,000 mt.


May '13

May '12

% Chg

Apr '13

Mar '13

Feb '13

Jan '13

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

Month-to-month demand in China is generally viewed as 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 National Bureau of Statistics and Chinese (NBS) 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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