China's "apparent oil demand" (production plus net imports) last month hit another record high at 36.74 million metric tons or about 8.98 million b/d, according to Platts' analysis of official data from that nation. The June demand figure is up 10 percent from a year ago and eclipses the previous high of 36.48 million metric tons set in May 2010 by .7 percent.
Meanwhile, China's apparent oil demand in the first half of 2010 jumped 13 percent to 210.81 million metric tons from the corresponding period of 2009, Platts reports. The January-June average was 8.54 million b/d.
Chinese oil demand growth is being led by sizable increases in production and consumption of naphtha - a feedstock for petrochemicals - and of jet fuel/kerosene and gasoil, said Vandana Hari, Platt's Asia editorial director, a puzzling phenomenon in the face of runaway growth in the country's car sales.
"This seeming anomaly, and the continued lack of reliable official data on demand and oil stocks from China, is once again prompting some unease, with the International Energy Agency earlier this month suggesting that either implied Chinese oil demand data for previous years is inaccurate, or the country's gross domestic product numbers inflated," Hari said.
Historically, Chinese crude imports have been utilized as a proxy for its oil demand, a fair calculation given that the country's domestic production has been more or less stagnant. However, the country's crude imports alone are not enough to form the real picture of China's oil consumption/demand, as China's product exports have started to grow significantly and products imports decline, Platts said. That makes calculating the "apparent" or implied demand more important.
Chinese refiners in June processed a total of 35.35 million metric tons of oil, or an average 8.64 million b/d, according to data recently released by China's National Bureau of Statistics. Thus, crude throughput is up 11 percent from a year ago, but is down 1.2 percent from the historic high of 35.79 million metric tons in May 2010.
China's net oil product imports this June rebounded from recent lows, even as Chinese refiners maintained high crude throughput in their plants, according to the analysis. "The recent gradual appreciation of the renminbi versus the U.S. dollar makes Chinese imports of refined products relatively cheaper and exports relatively less attractive," said Hari. "But it remains to be seen whether the June climb in net oil product imports represents the start of a trend."
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