(Adds analyst's quote, estimate for state reserves stockpiling
in fourth quarter)
BEIJING, Sept 2 China increased its strategic
crude oil reserves by 22.5 percent between the middle of last
year and the start of 2016, taking the total to 31.97 million
tonnes (233 million barrels), the National Statistical Bureau
said on Friday.
The volume, equivalent to about 33 days of net oil imports
to China, was higher than analysts had estimated.
"Stockpiling over the second half of 2015 was faster than
our calculation," Sengyick Tee of SIA Energy said. "The numbers
look like more till the first quarter, mostly likely also
including stockpiling by some independents."
In its last update in December 2015, the government said it
had 26.1 million tonnes, or about 190.5 million barrels,
stockpiled by mid-2015.
The world's largest consumer bought the crude as global
prices sank 40 percent in the second half of 2015 to
below $40 per barrel, testing fresh multi-year lows on evidence
of a growing worldwide glut.
The reserve is closely watched by analysts as a gauge of
what proportion of China's oil imports is going into the
reserves and how much is being refined and consumed.
Stockpiling should pick up significantly in the fourth
quarter, but slower oil demand and some delays in preparing
storage tanks will likely drag on the growth rate, according to
Michal Meidan of Energy Aspect.
The current data includes strategic and some commercial
stockpiles, the statistic bureau said. The government did not
release a breakdown of the figure.
Reuters reported that a private company has signed a
preliminary agreement to provide oil storage for 2.6 million
barrels of commercial state crude reserves.
China intends to build crude reserves of 550 million barrels
(Reporting by Beijing monitoring desk; Editing by Christian