China’s imports of crude oil rose 8.6 percent in April from a year ago, customs data showed on Friday, hitting a new record of 7.37 million barrels per day (bpd), as implied demand remains high and stockbuilding continues. China imported a higher-than-expected 30.29 million tonnes of crude oil in April, data from the General Administration of Customs showed. On a daily basis, April imports were up 13 percent from March.
China’s crude imports have been sustained by high implied oil demand that has remained above 10 million bpd for the past seven months. The International Energy Agency (IEA) in March revised up its forecast for China’s oil demand growth in 2015 to 2.7 percent. On a net basis, after factoring in exports of 440,000 tonnes, China’s April crude imports were 7.26 million bpd in April, still a record.
With global benchmark oil prices still down 40 percent from last June’s highs, China has been adding to its strategic reserves, although some analysts say China could be running out of storage space and that the imports could pull back. China generated an implied surplus of almost 335,000 bpd in the first three months of the year, not accounting for changes in commercial stocks, according to a Reuters analysis of Chinese government data.