Oil refiners in China log another record in challenge to U.S.

Sinopec refinery in China Image: Kevta Fire Systems

Chinese oil companies processed a record volume of crude in June, offering further signs that Asia’s largest economy may surpass the U.S. to become the world’s biggest refining nation this year.

Volumes hit 14.86 million barrels per day last month, up 3.8 per cent from May, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data from the National Bureau of Statistics on Thursday. That compares with a daily average of 16.17 million barrels in the U.S. in June, data from the Department of Energy show.

China’s refining capacity has nearly tripled since the turn of the millennium and the International Energy Agency predicts that the country will overtake the U.S. this year. Crude processing capacity will expand to 1 billion tonnes a year, or 20 million barrels per day, by 2025, compared with 17.5 million barrels at the end of 2020, China National Petroleum Corp. forecast earlier.

Both state refiners and independent plants increased runs in June as seasonal maintenance came to an end, Yuntao Liu, an analyst at London-based Energy Aspects, said ahead of the release. The gain was also underpinned by a slew of new refineries coming on stream in the country, which has targeted rising petrochemical production to reduce dependence on imports.

Operating rates at Sinopec refineries rose to 5.22 million barrels a day as of June 30, the highest since September 2020, according to data from Shandong-based consultant SCI99. Run rates at so-called teapots in Shandong were at 74.62 per cent as of June 18, the highest since January.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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