Sinopec, PetroChina to increase output after fuel price hike

Updated: 2009-06-06 07:02

(HK Edition)

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BEIJING: Sinopec and PetroChina, both listed in Hong Kong, plan to raise their crude oil processing output in June to record-high levels after some plants completed maintenance, encouraged by the recent fuel price increase and falling fuel stocks.

The central government raised diesel and gasoline prices on June 1 by 6-7 percent, the second and biggest increase this year, easing some pressure off refiners faced with rising crude oil costs.

Twelve major plants accounting for more than a third of the mainland's capacity, most of them on the eastern and southern seaboards, will process 2.59 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude in June, up nearly 10 percent from the actual 2.36 million bpd in May, a Reuters poll showed.

The level would be the same as the record-high crude runs in October and represents almost 92 percent of their total refining capacity.

Analysts said the prospect for fuel demand, especially gasoline and diesel, looks rosy given steady increases in automobile sales and recovering industrial activities, while the recent fuel price rise provided an additional incentive for production.

"Refining margin in June will be better than in May after the recent price hike," said Qiu Xiaofeng, an analyst with China Merchants Securities.

"But refiners may feel pressured later this month and in early July if there are no further fuel price increase, because they are going to process more costly crude oil imported last month and now."

US crude prices near $70 a barrel have almost doubled since end-December, though still 53 percent below the record highs above $147 in mid-July 2008.

But sentiment in the gas oil market in the Singapore oil hub has improved slightly, with its prompt crack spreads around $7.85 a barrel on Friday, versus less than $6.00 for most of the past two weeks.

Sinopec's Guangzhou refinery in the south and Qilu refinery in Shandong province will increase operation levels sharply this month after completing regular maintenance, while several others, including PetroChina's Dalian, also plan to step up processing activity.

But some refinery officials warned the preliminary plans could be revised in coming weeks in line with market changes. "A plan is a plan, we have to watch out what is going to happen in terms of price and demand for both fuel and chemicals," an official in a coastal plant said.

Fuel stocks held by the two oil giants continue to decline in April, with diesel inventories at the end of April falling 14 percent from a month ago and gasoline dropping 12 percent.


(HK Edition 06/06/2009 page5)