April imports hit record of almost 7.4 million barrels a day as global fuel costs increase
Retail gasoline prices are set to rise again from May 12, in line with China’s fuel price adjustment mechanism and an increase in global crude prices.
The National Development and Reform Commission, the nation’s top economic planner, said on May 11 that the retail price of gasoline will be hiked by 255 yuan ($41) a metric ton, or 0.19 yuan a liter, while diesel prices will increase by 245 yuan a ton, or 0.21 yuan a liter.
The increase means the benchmark price of 90-octane grade gasoline will be 6.23 yuan a liter. This third straight increase means China has now had three cuts and five rises in retail fuel prices in 2015.
Taking all the adjustments into account, gasoline prices have risen 570 yuan a ton and diesel 490 yuan a ton. The next price adjustment is expected on May 24.
Wang Qianqian, an oil analyst at domestic consultancy Shandong Longzhong Information Technology Co, said supply and demand conditions in the global crude market had not changed.
High crude stocks in the United States and sufficient crude production by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, mean the global crude price is not expected to rise sharply in the short term, said Wang, meaning the next round of domestic retail prices adjustment are likely to see slight rises or be left unchanged.
The consultancy said gasoline costs for family drivers will go up by 7 yuan to 10 yuan per 500 kilometers. Commercial vehicle users will pay an additional 75 yuan for each 1,000 kilometers to refuel with diesel.
Despite slowing economic growth in China, its crude oil imports still hit a record of almost 7.4 million barrels a day last month, putting it ahead of the US’ estimated imports of 7.2 million barrels a day for April, according to customs data.
Liu Qian, an analyst with the Academy of Chinese Energy Strategy of the China University of Petroleum, said it is not the first time that China’s oil imports have overtaken the US to become the world’s biggest crude importer during a single month.
“The US is increasing its own crude output continuously and reducing its imports. China’s crude import growth is slowing, but is still considerable which means it’s just a matter of time before China becomes the world’s biggest crude importer permanently,” he said.
Another short-term reason for China’s high April crude imports, Liu said, is the country tends to increase its strategic reserves when prices are low.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s strategic reserve bases have a capacity of 16.4 million cubic meters, which can store 12.43 million tons of crude.
The State Council said last November that the country should increase its crude inventories.