China's apparent oil demand rose 6.6% year over year in October to 41.28 million metric tons (mt), or an average 9.76 million barrels per day (b/d), the third highest on record, according to a Platts analysis of recent Chinese government data showed.
October apparent demand was slightly lower than the record 9.8 million b/d in September and the 9.77 million b/d seen in February this year.
"We continued to see strong growth in apparent oil demand in October, particularly after the lackluster performance from June to August when demand contracted by about 0.3% year over year," says Song Yen Ling, Platts senior writer for China. "Most analysts now believe China's economy is on the mend and we should see a corresponding improvement in oil demand going into next year."
China's oil demand in October continued to be sustained by a recovery in economic growth. In September, demand had risen 9.1% year over year, a rebound from the 1.5% contraction in August to 8.95 million b/d, the lowest since September 2011.
Apparent oil demand was also boosted by higher refinery throughput, which rose 6.7% from October 2011 to 9.44 million b/d, according to data released by China's National Bureau of Statistics on November 13. This is the second highest on record after the 9.47 million b/d seen in September. Another factor contributing to the rise in apparent demand was the surge in net oil product imports of 3.8% year over year to 1.37 million mt in October.
Similar to September, Chinese refiners are believed to have kept their refinery runs high in October as they looked ahead to higher seasonal winter demand in the fourth quarter and after having run down domestic product stocks in July and August.
In China's individual oil products markets, apparent demand for gasoil, primarily used in the transport and industrial sectors, continued to show growth in October. It increased 2.6% from a year ago to 14.36 million mt or 3.47 million b/d. Growth in September had rebounded to 4.7% following three consecutive months of demand contraction – which averaged 1.8% -- from June to August to 3.3 million b/d.
Domestic production of gasoil in October was up 4.8% from a year ago to 14.46 million mt. China's net exports of gasoil last month totaled 100,000 mt. This compared to net imports of 200,000 mt in October 2011. China consumes more gasoil than any other oil product.
"Year-to-date gasoil demand is fairly anemic at just 1.3% to 3.45 million b/d on a year-over-year basis," says Song. "But demand growth is expected to pick up to the 3-4% range in the fourth quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year as the government's stimulus measures continue to filter through the economy."
Apparent demand for gasoline in October rose 8.8% year over year to 7.39 million mt or 2.03 million b/d. The rise was largely driven by an increase in domestic output, also up 8.8%, to 2.09 million b/d. China is a net exporter of gasoline. Total gasoline exports last month were 220,000 mt, up 10% from a year ago.
Meanwhile, jet fuel/kerosene demand in October was up 28.6% from a year ago to 464,928 b/d or 1.85 million mt. The rise followed a relatively low base of 361,608 b/d in October 2011. Exports of jet/kerosene last month surged 32.6% to 610,000 mt on a year-over-year basis, while imports rose 47.5% to 590,000 mt. Domestic production totaled 469,960 b/d in October, a 24.8% rise from October 2011.