China Crude Imports Rise as Backlog Clears

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's November crude oil imports rose from a month earlier as customs continued to clear the backlog, although independent refiners slowed purchases as they reached their import quota limits.

China brought in 45.36 million tonnes of crude oil last month, equivalent to 11.04 million barrels per day (bpd), data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Monday.

That compares with 42.56 million tonnes in October and was 0.8% less than the level in November 2019.

In the first 11 months of the year, China, the world's top crude oil importer, took in a total of 503.92 million tonnes, or 10.98 million bpd, up 9.5% from the corresponding period last year.

Several ports in eastern China had suffered from months-long congestion since July due to record-high arrivals of crude shipments and bad weather, and stretched onshore facilities led to historical-high floating storage.

"We are expecting weaker crude oil flows into China in December. Refiners are eyeing the cargo that will be delivered in January, so that they can use their quota for 2021," said Li Yan, analyst at China-based Longzhong consultancy, ahead of the data.

The commerce ministry has raised 2021 crude import quotas by 20% to 243 million tonnes for non-state refiners.

"The decrease in Chinese oil purchases has allowed floating storage volumes to finally begin clearing onshore," said analysts from Kpler in a client note.

Kpler estimated total floating levels in China dropped to around 30 million barrels in late November, down from a peak of 96 million barrels realised in early September.

Customs data also showed China exported 4.95 million tonnes of refined oil products in November, down 14.5% from October.

Natural gas imports, including piped and LNG, were 9.18 million tonnes last month, down 3% on year, the data showed.

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