There is little doubt China’s crude oil imports enjoyed a robust 2016, hitting a record high. The question is how long the party can continue?
Customs data released on Jan. 13 showed Chinese imports of crude reached 36.38 million tonnes in December, or 8.57 million barrels per day (bpd), the most in a month and well above the previous mark of 8.04 million bpd set in September.
For the year crude imports were 13.6 percent higher at about 7.6 million bpd.
In volume terms this represents a gain of about 912,000 bpd, showing that China is still by a large margin the major driver of global growth in crude oil demand.
To put that figure in perspective, Asia’s other major source of oil demand growth is India, where crude imports were about 4.3 million bpd in 2016, up 7.5 percent or about 300,000 bpd from the prior year.
The International Energy Agency estimates global oil demand growth was about 1.4 million bpd in 2016, not much more than the combined growth in imports of China and India.
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