China's crude oil imports plunged in October to the lowest since September 2018, as large state-owned refiners withheld purchases because of rising prices while independent refiners were restrained by limited quotas to import.
The world's biggest crude oil importer brought in 37.8 million tonnes last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Sunday, equivalent to 8.9 million barrels per day (bpd). That is down from 9.99 million bpd in September and 10.02 million bpd in the same period last year.
Over the January-October period, crude arrivals totalled 425.06 million tonnes, or 10.21 million bpd, down 7.2% year-on-year, the customs data showed. Crude imports were down on a monthly basis for a second month and the decline has occurred amid a 62% jump in crude oil prices this year as economies open globally from COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, spurring fuel demand.
Beijing's crackdown on illicit trading in crude oil quotas and import allowances for independent oil refiners also weighed on purchases. Customs data on Sunday also showed China's refined oil product exports for October fell 31.8% on-year to 3.95 million tonnes.
Natural gas imports, including piped and liquefied natural gas (LNG), were 9.38 million tonnes in October, up 24.6% from a year earlier. Oil imports may be set to rise in November as refiners have vowed to address a shortfall in diesel and gasoline supplies that has pushed fuel prices higher.
Additionally, Beijing has issued 14.89 million tonnes of crude oil import quotas for independent refiners for the remaining period of 2021, and China's Zhejiang Petrochemical Corp (ZPC), operator of China's single largest refinery, has separately received a quota of 12 million tonnes.
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