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China's oil imports rise to hit record high
(Shenzhen Daily/Xinhua)
Updated: 2004-11-23 13:22

China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, has managed to set a new full-year record for fuel oil imports in just 10 months, a clear sign its appetite for refined oil products will continue unabated next year.

According to data issued Monday by China's General Administration of Customs, the country imported 2.1 million metric tons of fuel oil in October, up 26 percent from the same month last year, bringing total imports in the first 10 months to 24.76 million tons.

That total already is 4 percent more than the 23.79 million tons recorded for the whole of 2003, which was the old all-time high.

The import surge was largely due to firm demand for fuel oil from the power-generation sector as well as from independent refineries for secondary processing to produce diesel.

Imports of fuel oil from Singapore in October doubled from a year ago to 547,016 tons to make up for a decline in shipments from South Korea and Russia.

Singapore is on course to be the top supplier of fuel oil to China this year, with imports from the city state in the January-October period totaling 6.12 million tons, compared with 5.39 million tons from South Korea and 4.56 million tons from Russia.

Recently, analysts have been saying they expect China¡¯s robust oil demand to begin easing soon, based on figures showing a slowing of total imports into the country in September. They also point to government measures to cool down runaway economic growth.

Earlier this month, the International Energy Agency also said China's oil demand might ease. However, it said this was contingent on government efforts to increase fuel efficiency while boosting non-oil electricity generation.

But the latest import data show that high oil prices and government efforts to rein in the economy have failed so far to dent China's enormous appetite for oil, and all signs appear to point to even greater demand in 2005.

In October, the country imported 206,544 tons of diesel, a jump of 142 percent on the year, and imports are expected to continue growing in November.

Late last year, electricity shortages severely ate into China's diesel stocks as several private companies turned to diesel-fuel power generators for electricity.

With plenty of new coal-fired power and hydropower projects now on stream, particularly in the second half of the year, and upgrades to power grids, the demand-supply fundamentals for diesel should be more balanced.

But a drought in South China may lead to a drop in generation from hydropower plants, and a corresponding increase in oil-fired power to make up the shortfall, boosting demand for fuel oil as a result.

The only softness seen in the growth of oil product imports was recorded for liquefied petroleum gas, which edged up only 0.8 percent on the year in October to 540, 874 tons.

China's exports of gasoline, meanwhile, slid 29 percent in October from a year ago to 375,312 tons, as it cut overseas shipments of motor fuel to help meet demand at home.

(Shenzhen Daily/Agencies)¡¡

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