China data: May crude throughput rises 4.4% on year to hit record high

China’s crude throughput in May rose 4.4% year on year to hit a record high of 60.5 million mt, marking the first time it has crossed 60 million mt in a month, data released by the National Bureau of Statistics June 16 showed.

On barrels per day basis, the volume was also touched a record high at 14.31 million b/d, compared with the previous high of 14.26 million b/d in November 2020.

The fresh high was attributed to state-owned refiners boosting crude runs to 80% of their capacity from 76% in April as 30 million mt/year of refining capacity returned from scheduled maintenance, S&P Global Platts’ data showed.

Throughput increase in the state-owned sector was more than sufficient to offset the reduction in the small-scale private refineries, which fell to 14-month low of 2.38 million b/d in May, Platts reported on June 9.

Throughput to stay high

“China’s crude throughput is more likely to stay at high levels until the year-end when demand slows down in winter while independent refineries run out of crude import quota,” a Beijing-based analyst said regarding throughput for the rest of the year.

The high throughput scenario was likely because the maintenance season is going to end in June/July.

Meanwhile, Chinese refineries have to lift throughput to increase gasoil and gasoline output in order to compensate for the reduction in light cycle oil and mixed aromatics imports.

Imported LCO and mixed aromatics are blending materials of gasoil and gasoline, respectively. Both imported barrels will be subjected to a consumption tax from June 12, which will dampen the inflow due to the high tax cost.

“We’ll lift yield and cut our exports in order to save more gasoline barrels for the domestic market next month,” said a source with a Sinopec refinery in East China.

Jan-May throughput rises

These brought the country’s throughput in the first five months to average at 14.21 million b/d with a 12.7% year-on-year jump.

In the upstream sector, China’s crude output rose 3.5% year on the year to 4.03 million b/d in May, edging up from 4.01 million b/d in April, the NBS data showed.

As a result, the average crude production in January-May was 4.01 million b/d, up 2.9% year on year.

NBS releases data in metric tons, which Platts converts to barrels using a 7.33 conversion factor.
Source: Platts

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