China’s crude oil imports rose 11.9 percent in January from a year earlier to a record 6.63 million barrels per day (b/d), as companies restocked ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday despite lukewarm demand growth. The surprisingly high figure could also be due to data distortions ahead of the week-long break that fell across the first week of February, as companies tend to advance book cargos that are due to arrive in early February.
China, the world’s top energy consumer, took in 28.16 million tonnes, or 6.63 million bpd, of oil last month, up 5.1 percent from the previous record of 6.31 million in December of last year, according to the General Administration of Customs.
Demand for crude appeared less robust than the imports indicate as the top two state refiners Sinopec and PetroChina were due to process 1.9 percent less oil in January than in December, according to energy consultancy ICIS C1. That suggests some of the imports went straight into storage. China will not release its official throughput data for the first two months of this year until mid-March.
Elsewhere, Russia announced it expects its oil output to reach 525 million tonnes (10.54 million b/d) this year, up 0.4 percent from 2013, a figure that would set a post-Soviet record high. Russia, the world’s leading oil producer, added almost 1.4 percent to its crude output last year to reach 10.51 million b/d, the previous annual post-Soviet record. The gas production figure would also set a record since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2013, Russia produced 668 billion cubic metres of gas, with the bulk coming from state-controlled Gazprom, which meets the quarter of Europe’s gas needs.