According to the ICIS China Annual Petroleum Report, growth in demand for refined oil products in China has collapsed in 2014, with the world’s largest economy showing only a 1.1% increase over the past 12 months.
Chinese oil demand has totalled 503 million t over the course of the year. This figure represents the slowest growth rate since 2000. Net imports of refined products have meanwhile fallen by 43% year on year as China’s refining industry has ramped up production, and overall dependence on imported products is now at just 2%.
The slowdown in demand growth comes despite a collapse in international oil prices since July, which has seen benchmark Brent crude fall from a peak of US$114/bbl in June to just below US$60/bbl today.
Overall energy consumption in China is expected to grow at a faster rate than oil: up by 3.4% year on year to 3.88 billion t of coal equivalent in 2014. That figure will fall to just 3.2% growth next year, ICIS China predicts, with energy consumption at 4 billion t.
In part, the slowdown in oil products demand growth is due to slower economic growth in China, with 2014 coming in at 7.5% for the overall economy. However, it is also the inexorable effect of the country’s ongoing shift from heavy industry to lighter industry, service industries, and its focus on urbanisation. This is provoking a slump in demand for gasoil, while that for transportation gasoline remains relatively buoyant.
In contrast, with slowing growth in overall products demand, actual Chinese crude oil imports have continued to rise strongly over 2014. ICIS China’s analysis shows overall crude imports hitting 300 million t for the year, up to 7.8% on 2013. The growth in crude however is primarily driven by a major Chinese government initiative to build a strategic crude oil stockpile, which aims to build stocks to 70 million m3 by the end of 2020.
ICIS China forecasts a rebound in refined products demand in 2015, predicting a 4.1% growth for the year.
Adapted from a press release by Emma McAleavey.
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