The world’s largest oil importer, China, purchased 43.14 million tons of crude in October, equating to 10.2 million barrels per day, according to data released by the country’s customs service on Monday. October oil imports were 4% greater than in September and the highest since May.
In September, Beijing moved to boost the export of refined oil products by issuing a 15-million-ton annual quota, which could be rolled over into the first quarter.
According to tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg, the impact of the move will continue to show up in crude import data for several months, with nearly 9.3 million barrels of oil per day sent to China in October, the highest since December 2021.
“China’s crude import growth is mostly triggered by export quota, with domestic demand still sluggish,” Emma Li, an analyst at Vortexa told the media, adding that the latest reduction in the official selling price of Saudi Arabian grades to Asian nations has also likely contributed to import growth.
China’s net fuel exports dropped 43% in October compared to the previous month, according to separate data released on Monday.
The decline came as state-owned refiners ramped up activity during the month, according to industry consultant OilChem, as cited by Bloomberg.
Run rates were reportedly at 76.4% of capacity on November 3, the highest in seventh months. October imports were slightly above the 10 million-a-day level, the average recorded during the pre-pandemic period.
The drop in net fuel exports may reflect a lag effect, as it commonly takes refiners time to import crude oil, process it into diesel or gasoline, and then send it abroad.