Platts Report: China Oil Demand Rose 2.1% in April Versus a Year Ago

Refinery Utilization Rates Remain Lower Due to Seasonal Maintenance

May 23, 2013, 08:28 ET from Platts

SINGAPORE, May 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- China's apparent oil demand* in April rose by 2.1% to an average 9.66 million barrels per day (b/d) or 39.54 million mt, a just-released Platts analysis of Chinese government data showed. This followed a 1.9% year-over-year expansion in March to an average 9.77 million b/d.

Apparent demand for oil in April was the lowest level since August 2012, when apparent demand averaged 8.95 million b/d.

Refinery runs, or capacity utilization, fell 3% in April versus March to an average 9.36 million b/d, but were up 2.5% compared to April 2012, according to data released May 13 by China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

China's General Administration of Customs data released May 21 showed net oil product imports in April totaled 1.22 million mt, a 10.3% decrease year over year. The decline in net oil product imports was spurred by weakening domestic gasoil demand, which prompted continued gasoil exports by China's refiners.

China's total oil product exports in April rose 60.8% compared with April 2012 to 2.67 million mt, with gasoil exports rising 325% year over year to 340,000 mt in April although they eased from March exports of 420,000 mt.

Chinese refiners have now exported 1.39 million mt of gasoil in the first four months of the year, compared with just 300,000 mt over the same period of 2012.

"China will likely continue to export high levels of gasoil until the end of the second quarter of this year, and market sources say this is mainly due to weakening domestic demand," said Song Yen Ling, Platts senior writer, China.

Apparent demand for gasoil, which makes up the largest component of overall oil product demand, contracted by 3.8% year over year in April to 13.53 million mt. Domestic output fell by 2% to 13.82 million mt, while net exports rose 49.6% year on year to 290,000 mt.

Gasoline apparent demand continued to show robust growth on sustained automobile sales. Demand rose by 5.9% to 7.29 million mt in April, buoyed by a 10.5% increase in domestic output to 7.76 million mt. Exports rose by 235.7% year on year to 470,000 mt. China does not typically import gasoline.

Jet/kerosene apparent demand surged 29.9% year on year to 1.82 million mt, largely because of a jump in domestic output and a fall in net exports. China is typically a small net exporter of jet/kerosene and these volumes in April totaled 130,000 mt, slumping 56.7% year on year and 60.6% month on month. A 14.4% rise in domestic output to 1.95 million mt also boosted apparent demand.

China's total apparent demand for oil from January to April this year averaged 9.96 million b/d, rising 2.8% year on year. Oil refinery runs rose 4.1% to an average 9.69 million b/d while net oil product imports fell 28.6% year on year to 4.36 million mt.


Apr '13

Apr '12

% Chg

Mar '13

Feb '13

Jan '13

Dec '12

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 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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