China Imports Record Crude Oil as Price Crash Accelerates Buying

(Bloomberg) -- China imported a record amount of crude last year as oil’s lowest annual average price in more than a decade spurred stockpiling and boosted demand from independent refiners.

The world’s largest energy consumer increased imports by 8.8 percent to a record 334 million metric tons (about 6.7 million barrels a day) in 2015, according to preliminary data released by the Beijing-based General Administration of Customs on Wednesday.

China has exploited a plunge in crude prices by easing rules to allow private refiners, known as teapots, to import crude and by boosting shipments to fill emergency stockpiles. The nation’s overseas purchases may rise as much as 12 percent to 370 million metric tons this year, surpassing estimated U.S. imports of about 363 million tons, according to Li Li, a Guangzhou-based analyst with ICIS China, an industry researcher.

“We’ll see a boom in teapot crude imports this year and the filling of strategic reserve sites amid multi-year low prices,” Li said before the data was released. “In the meantime, U.S. dependency on oil imports will gradually decline with higher domestic output.”

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Jing Yang in Shanghai at jyang251@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ramsey Al-Rikabi at ralrikabi@bloomberg.net Abhay Singh, Aaron Clark

Copyright 2016 Bloomberg News.

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