Oil Consumption Rises As Refiners Ramp Up Output In China

In anticipation of greater demand and a potential increase in fourth-quarter gasoline exports, at least three Chinese state-run oil refineries and a privately owned mega refiner are considering raising capacity in October from September by up to 10%, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Chinese refiners anticipate Beijing may unleash up to 15 million tonnes of oil product export quotas for the remainder of the year in order to boost the slumping exports of the world’s second largest economy. Such a move would represent a change in China’s export policy for oil products, increase global supplies while lowering fuel costs. According to traders, Chinese refiners have taken advantage of trading opportunities to increase stocks after benchmark Brent crude prices recently dropped to below $100 a barrel. They have reserved super tankers to transport crude oil to China from the Americas and the Middle East.

According to a state refinery official, his facility is planning a 10% increase in runs beginning in September, to hit around 240,000 barrels per day (bpd). The official stated, they are raising runs next month in anticipation of a potential opening in exports, though no one has a good indication of how huge the opening would be.

The proposal, according to a second official from another state refinery, was motivated by higher domestic margins. His unit is likewise seeking a throughput increase of around 8% for next month. According to one of the sources, a third state refinery plans to resume a 60,000 bpd crude unit the following month.

As per two individuals familiar with its operations, China’s largest refinery, Zhejiang Petrochemical Corp, which can process 800,000 barrels of crude per day, plans to increase production from its present levels of 700,000–750,000 bpd in the coming months.

A ZPC official acknowledged the company is evaluating a run increase in light of emerging signs of an improving economy, but she refrained from going into further detail.

According to Chinese brokerage SHZQ Futures, the average refining rate at China’s state-owned refineries increased to 73.74% as of last week, up 2.56% from end-August. Run rates at independent Shandong refineries, whose cumulative refining capacity makes up about a fifth of China’s total, also increased last week after declining for five weeks starting in mid-July.

As per statistics from Simpson Spence Young on Refinitiv Eikon, the recovery in China’s oil demand has driven lump sum freight rates for Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC) steaming from the U.S. Gulf and the Middle East to China to their highest level since May 2020 at nearly $10 million.

According to Emma Li, an analyst at Vortexa Analytics, she believes that China-bound freight rates improved on the hope of a China demand rebound. The rumour of an unusually large volume of goods shipments in Q4 further drove market confidence.

Vitkor Katona, head oil analyst at analytics company Kpler, says that U.S. crude entering China in October is anticipated to reach 450,000 bpd, its highest level since December 2020, up from roughly 300,000 bpd in the period between August and September.

According to Kpler data, Middle East crude exports to China are also increasing, with September loadings expected to hit 4.7 million bpd, 4% more than in August and 8% more than in July. As per the data analytics company Kayrros, onshore crude inventories in China decreased to roughly 986 million barrels in mid-September, dropping 6% from a high of 1,049 million barrels at the end of June.