Beijing — China’s crude oil throughput rose 2.6% in October from a year earlier to its highest-ever level as fuel demand firmed on strong holiday travel.
The country processed 59.82 million tonnes of crude oil last month, equivalent to 14.09 million barrels per day (bpd), according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Monday.
That compared with 13.96 million bpd in September, topping the previous daily record set in June at 14.08 million bpd.
Total throughput during the first 10 months of 2020 was 555.18 million tonnes, or 13.29 million bpd, up 2.9% from the same period in 2019.
Gasoline demand was firm as more motorists hit the road for long-distance driving during a holiday period in early October.
Domestic aviation fuel consumption rebounded to near pre-COVID levels in September and was expected to firm up more in October, thanks to a fast recovery in passenger travel and cargo freight, although demand from international flights remained weak.
The refinery throughput increase, however, was capped as one of Sinopec’s main refineries, Qilu in Shandong, switched off a 160,000 bpd crude processing unit from late September.
“Independent refiners still have incentives to maintain high operational rates amid a solid refining margin of 200 yuan ($30.38) a tonne,” said Ding Xu, analyst from China-based Longzhong consultancy, speaking before the data was released.
The NBS data also showed China’s crude oil output last month was 16.41 million tonnes, up 1.4% from the same month a year earlier.
Output for the first 10 months gained 1.7% on the year to 162.66 million tonnes, a small but significant increase given rapid reservoir depletion at major mature fields.
Natural gas output last month was up 12% from a year earlier to 16.3 billion cubic metres, ahead of the start of the winter heating season in the north when consumption of the fuel typically shoots up.
January-October production grew a robust 9% year-on-year.
$1 = 6.5843 yuan
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu in Singapore and Muyu Xu in Beijing; Editing by Tom Hogue and Kenneth Maxwell)