China has become a net exporter of refined oil products such as petrol and diesel for first time in more than four years, underlining the growing size and importance of its domestic refining industry.
Exports of oil products were 650,000 barrels a day in March, up 3.4 per cent on the same month a year ago, according to customs data released yesterday. Imports totalled 560,000b/d, down almost 25 per cent on a year earlier and the lowest since August 2012.
Analysts said this was only the third time since records began in 2004 that China had been net exporter of oil products; the others were December 2009 and January 2010.
“We believe the trend towards China exporting more and importing less refined products will intensify over 2014 and 2015, driven by a large expansion of domestic refining capacity, including 800,000b/d this year,” said Citi analyst Ivan Szpakowski.
China’s fuel consumption rose at the slowest rate in more than two decades in 2013 as the economy slowed, ending a decade of rapid growth that helped drive global oil prices above $100 a barrel.
Yet China has continued to build refineries and add processing capacity. The result has been domestic supply glut that has not only hurt refinery profits but led to a rise in diesel and fuel oil exports to Asia.
Several international oil companies have backtracked on plans to invest in Chinese refineries.
A breakdown of products exported had not yet been released, but Mr Szpakowski said he expected “changes in fuel oil, naphtha and diesel flows to have driven much of the shift”.
Amrita Sen, analyst at Energy Aspects, said the figures were a reflection of excess refining capacity and slowing demand . “This is a story about import compression and burgeoning stocks,” she said.
“Excess refining capacity is leading to higher product supplies domestically. As a result, China is able to pull back on imports.”
Crude oil imports had fallen below 6m b/d for the first time in three months to 5.55m b/d.
Ms Sen said the reason China had not exported more oil products in March was weak margins. “Diesel exports have been challenged by poor economics since the spread between Chinese prices and those in Singapore have been too narrow to allow for profitable exports.”
ICE Brent May fell 0.4 per cent to $107.50 a barrel.
咨询机构Energy Aspects的分析师阿姆里塔?森(Amrita Sen)表示，上述数字反映出中国炼油产能过剩和需求放缓。她说：“这意味着进口收缩，而库存激增。