China's apparent oil demand rose 10.2% in August from a year earlier to 11.19 million barrels per day (b/d), according to a just-released Platts analysis of Chinese government data.
Barring gasoil and naphtha, China's apparent demand for all other key products—gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), jet/kerosene, and fuel oil—saw double digit year-on-year growth in August.
China’s refinery throughput in August averaged 10.49 million b/d, up 6.5% from a year earlier, data from the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on September 12 showed.
Meanwhile, China’s net imports of oil products surged 131% year on year to 700,000 b/d in August, driven by strong inflows of LPG, fuel oil and naphtha, according to data released September 21 by the General Administration of Customs.
During the first eight months of this year, China’s total apparent oil demand averaged 11.14 million b/d, an increase of 8.2% from the same period of 2014.
China’s actual oil demand growth could be higher since stocks of key products have fallen, Platts estimates show. “Inventories of gasoil, gasoline and jet/kerosene fell by between 2.5% and 9.7% at the end of August, from end July,” said Platts Associate Editorial Director for Asia Oil News Mriganka Jaipuriyar.
China’s apparent oil demand is expected to remain steady at 11.1 million b/d for the rest of the year, according to data from Platts China Oil Analytics, an on-line platform for supply/demand, refining margins, volume forecasts, trade flows and the like. However, it indicates that overall growth for 2015 could moderate to just over 5%, given the high base in the fourth quarter of last year.
Gasoil is the most widely consumed oil product in China and the nation’s declining economic growth over the last three years has hit gasoil demand.
Apparent demand in August rose 3.4% year over year to 3.50 million b/d, but actual demand could be higher given the stock draw down, Platts China Oil Analytics indicate.
Stocks of gasoil fell 7.6%, or near 7.5 million barrels, in August from July to an estimated 90.38 million barrels, Platts calculates, based on Xinhua's China Petroleum Stockpile Statistics.
“Some of the government’s stimulus measures implemented in prior months are likely filtering down through the economy,” said Song Yen Ling, Platts senior analyst for Asia Pacific oil markets. “Industrial production growth improved marginally in August, while other indicators such as highway freight traffic also showed positive growth.”
Up to 70% of the fuel is used in the transport sector while the remainder is used by various sectors - including construction, farming and fishing, and industrial heating - to power machinery.
Apparent demand for gasoil rose 3.7% over January to August to 3.58 million b/d.
Demand for LPG surged 27.3% year on year to 1.27 million b/d in August. Growth was supported by import demand from new propane dehydrogenation plants. Net imports of LPG rose 168.5% year over year to an average 376,000 b/d for the month.
Year to date, apparent demand for LPG is up approximately 21.4% versus a year ago to 1.21 million b/d.
Apparent demand for gasoline rose 21.6% year over year to 2.75 million b/d, with January-August demand rising 11.4% to 2.69 million b/d.
According to Xinhua’s China Petroleum Stockpile Statistics, gasoline stocks fell 9.7% year over year at the end of August, suggesting actual demand could be higher than Platts estimates.
Even though overall auto sales contracted in August, China's sales of gasoline-guzzling MPVs and SUVs, which have been the key demand drivers, rose 10% and 44.5% respectively, year on year, according to data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Apparent demand for fuel oil in August rose 27.20% year over year to 695,000 b/d. Demand for the January to August period rose 14.3% year over year to 952,000 b/d.
Net imports of fuel oil rose 58.5% in August on a year-over-year basis to 549,000 b/d, led in large part by a jump in imports of petroleum bitumen blend.
Data from the General Administration of Customs showed that bitumen blend imports in August surged 530% year over year.
Platts calculates China's apparent or implied oil demand on the basis of crude throughput volumes at the domestic refineries and net oil product imports, as reported by the NBS and Chinese customs.
Platts also takes into account undeclared revisions in NBS historical data.
The government releases data on imports, exports, domestic crude production and refinery throughput data, but does not give official data on the country's actual oil consumption figure and oil stockpiles.
Official statistics on oil storage are released intermittently.
In view of some significant shifts in Chinese consumption and trade patterns in recent years, Platts has revised its methodology starting July 2015 to include production and net imports of LPG, as well as imports of petroleum bitumen blend, a popular imported feedstock for China's teapot refineries.
Platts has also refined its calculation of exports of jet fuel and fuel oil to exclude international marine bunker sales and aviation fuel delivered to international flights. This also impacts net imports, and hence apparent demand calculations.
All historical figures used for comparison have also been calculated using the new methodology to ensure consistency.
Platts aims to release its monthly calculation of China's apparent demand between the 18th and 26th of every month via press release and via its website. Any use of this information must be appropriately attributed to Platts China Oil Analytics or the respective Platts spokesperson. Platts uses a conversion rate of 7.33 barrels of crude per metric ton, the widely-accepted benchmark for markets East of Suez.