Record High for Chinese Oil Imports in December Support Tanker Market.
China, the world"s second-largest energy consumer, may lead an increase in demand for tankers as its energy needs rise. The country"s imports of crude oil in the spot market have increased fivefold over the past 10 years to the equivalent of more than 55 Very Large Crude Carriers, or VLCCs, last year from 11 in 2000, the U.S. energy consultant said. ?China"s growing reliance on seaborne crude oil imports will set the tone of the tanker market for the coming decade,? Poten said in a report to clients, quoted by Bloomberg. ?China"s expanding middle class, strategic stockpiling and complex refining capacity ensure that it will continue to be a large ship, crude oil story.?
China"s crude oil imports may reach an all-time high this year as an economic recovery spurs demand for fuels, data from China National Petroleum Corp. showed on Feb. 4. The Chinese economy, which expanded at the fastest pace in the fourth quarter since 2007, will grow four times faster than the U.S. in 2010, the United Nations said in December.
Chinese charterers accounted for about 30 percent of VLCC spot fixture activity this year, up from below 5 percent a decade earlier, Poten said.
According to Chinese official data, China"s crude oil imports have reached a monthly record high in December 2009 of 5.02 mb/d with annual crude oil imports averaging 4.10 mb/d in 2009 for the first time. Imports of oil products for the full year 2009 stood at 1.0 mb/d, 4.4% higher than the previous year. Crude oil imports in 2009 exceeded local crude production with a share of 56% of the apparent demand. The fast pace of the expansion of refinery capacity overtook the growth in domestic consumption, which lead to a surge in diesel and gasoline exports. Oil imports picked up in the beginning of April, after having declined in the first quarter, as new refineries in Huizhou in Guangdong province and in the Fujian province came onstream. In the second half of 2009, crude oil imports grew rapidly on the back of economic improvement.
In December of 2009, China became a net exporter of gasoline for the first time in 15 years with a volume of 270.000 b/d. Exports of gasoline in 2009 on average stood at 115.000 b/d, compared to 48.000 b/d the previous year. Average imports of diesel slightly declined to 450.000 b/d for 2009 compared to a year earlier. Due to the increased activity in the petrochemical sector China become a net importer of naphtha for the first time, reaching 42.000 b/d in 2009 compared to a net exports of 18.000 b/d a year earlier. Also, imports of fuel oil increased by 75.000 b/d in December compared to the previous month to average 108.000 b/d based on growing demand from local refineries. Despite the increase of naphtha and fuel oil imports, the surge in exports of gasoline and diesel reduced total net product imports by 24% y-o-y. With the increase in imports of crude oil and other products, Chinas net oil imports rose by 8% to 4.39 mb/d in 2009 compared to a year earlier.
In 2009, Saudi Arabia was China"s top crude oil supplier with 0.84 mb/d, followed by Angola with 0.65 mb/d and Iran with 0.46 mb/d. OPEC Member Countries supplied2.65 mb/d in 2009, which represents a 64.7% share of total crude oil imports in China.
US Imports Also Raised
US crude oil imports averaged 8.43 mb/d in January, about 0.45 mb/d higher than the previous month bit a 14% or 1.41 mb/d decline compared to the same month a year ago.
For the year, crude oil imports to the US averaged 9.1 mb/d, representing a drop of 7%or 0.7 mb/d.
US product imports rose in January by 11.2% or 280,000 b/d compared to the previous month to average 2.80 mb/d, but showed a decline of 16% or 0.54 mb/d from the same month a year ago. Finished motor gasoline imports were at 214,000 b/d compared to 201,000 b/d in December and were 3.8% lower compared to the same month last year.
Gasoline imports averaged 0.22 mb/d in 2009, representing a decline of 27%. Distillate imports in January were at 476,000 b/d compared to 264,000 b/d in the previous month and 249,000 b/d a year earlier. For the year, distillate imports average 229,000 b/d, 8% higher compared to the previous year.
On the export side, US products fell in January compared to the previous month, averaging 1.75 mb/d. On a y-o-y basis, product exports were 18% or 264,000 b/d higher.
US product exports in 2009 averaged 1.79 mb/d compared to 1.75 mb/d in 2008.
As a result, US net oil imports in January were 11% or about 0.93 mb/d higher compared to the previous month to average 9.44 mb/d. This was the result of an increase of 0.45 mb/d in net crude oil imports and of 0.48 mb/d in net product imports, both compared to the previous month. January net oil imports were 19% lower than a year earlier and average net oil imports in 2009 were at 10.02 mb/d, representing a loss of 10% or about 1.13 mb/d from a year ago.