Oil hungry China may fuel tanker demand

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-23 08:07
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SINGAPORE: China, the world's second-largest energy consumer, may lead an increase in demand for tankers as its energy needs rise, Poten & Partners said in a report.

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, the US 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 dated Feb 19. "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 United States 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.

The nation set a January record for crude oil imports, with net shipments at 17.1 million metric tons last month, or about 4 million barrels a day, according to data by the General Administration of Customs on Feb 10. That's the highest for any January and 33 percent more than a year earlier.

China relied on imports for more than half its crude oil needs last year. Its oil demand may grow 4.7 percent in 2010 to 8.9 million barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency, and if demand reaches expected levels of 11.5 million barrels a day by 2015, it could lead to significant increases in ton-mile demand, Poten said.

Assuming that these incremental volumes are sourced from the Persian Gulf, it could create demand for an additional 80 VLCCs to meet Chinese demand by 2015, according to the report. The Persian Gulf accounted for more than 70 percent of Chinese imports since 2005.

Bloomberg News

(China Daily 02/23/2010 page16)