China’s crude oil imports dropped for the first time since 2001

Since 2015, when Beijing began giving import quotas to independent refiners, China has been the global oil consumption engine for the last decade, responsible for 44 percent of the global development in oil imports

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China’s crude oil imports dropped for the first time since 2001
(Photo by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

China’s annual crude oil imports decreased 5.4 percent in 2021 to the lowest level since 2001, as Beijing intensified regulations on the refining sector to decrease excess local fuel manufacturing and refiner stockpiles.

Since 2015, when Beijing began giving import quotas to independent refiners, China has been the global oil consumption engine for the last decade, responsible for 44 percent of the global development in oil imports. Following the declaration of the report, standard Brent crude oil declined slightly to $84.40 per barrel.

The General Administration of Chinese Customs announced on Friday that exports as the world’s largest oil importer fell to 512.98 million tons (equal to 10.26 million barrels per day) from 542.39 million tons in the 2020s.

Last year, the Reuters news agency indicated that imports into the world’s second-largest refinery were slowing as Beijing examined tax cheating and improper quota trading among private refineries, as well as decreased fuel export quotas to limit crude processing.

As independent refiners hastened to use 2021 quotas, December oil supplies topped 46.14 million tonnes, up roughly 20% from the earlier month and the first monthly year-on-year gain since April, according to customs data. The imports in December, which equaled around 10.87 million barrels per day, were the biggest daily total since March.

Companies have gone on a big stock-building spree in 2020, notwithstanding the lowest oil prices in decades and a speedy comeback in fuel demand following the COVID-19 pandemic’s early effects. However, amidst rising prices and a weaker upsurge in fuel demand, refiners and merchants whittled down stocks in 2021.

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