China overtakes U.S. again as world's top crude importer
By Meng Meng and Florence Tan
BEIJING/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - China imported record volumes of crude oil last month, eclipsing the United States as the world's top buyer of foreign oil as Beijing's state reserves shipped in cheap crude to fill new storage tanks.
September's crude imports rose 18 percent from a year earlier to 33.06 million tonnes or 8.04 million barrels per day (bpd) on daily basis, customs data showed.
The buying outpaced the U.S. four-week average assessed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration of 7.98 million bpd at the end of September.
It marked the second time this year - but the third month in the past twelve - that China's imports have overtaken the United States, and reflected contracts signed in July when renewed selling pressure pushed crude below $42 a barrel. Oil has since recovered to around $50 a barrel.
The shipments also arrived as Chinese refineries entered the final stretch of their annual maintenance season, which typically takes place in the third quarter.
With U.S. plants' repair work extending into this month, the world's largest economy could retake pole position in October, analysts said.
China's strategic reserve is preparing to start filling late this year newly-built storage tanks that can take some 19 million barrels of crude, or about three days worth of imports, traders said.
"The increase was mainly driven by stocking activities at some reserve sites," said Harry Liu, associate director of oil markets with IHS Energy, who said August and September volumes were higher than he expected. Continued...