* Expect steady to moderately higher quotas for 2017
* Teapots to raise imports by 200,000-400,000 bpd -analyst
By Chen Aizhu
BEIJING, Dec 8 China's small, independent
refiners are set to raise their crude oil imports again in 2017
on expectations that Beijing will keep their intake quotas
steady, market participants said, a move that should help eat up
some of the global supply glut.
Officials at three independent refineries and an official
involved in national import policy said they expected the
government to keep next year's crude oil import quotas for
independents unchanged to slightly higher.
Called "teapots" due to the small capacities of their plants
compared with the big state-run refineries, the independents
made up nearly 90 percent of China's crude oil import growth
this year, helping to put the world's No.2 economy on course to
challenge the United States as the top importer.
Next year, teapots will contribute 200,000-400,000 barrels
per day (bpd) to China's crude import growth, out of an overall
import rise of 500,000-700,000 bpd, according to estimates from
research consultancy Energy Aspects.
"For the teapots, crude imports (and ensuing product sales
and exports) are also an opportunity to expand their share of
the domestic retail market and to develop a regional footprint
in Asia and potentially beyond," said Michal Meidan, an Energy
In 2016, China has raised its imports by nearly 900,000 bpd
on average, more than enough to supply the whole of the
Netherlands, thanks largely to 17 new teapot buyers.
Thomson Reuters Research and Forecasts estimates teapots
will import about 5 million tonnes of crude oil in December, or
1.18 million bpd, highest since the independents were allowed to
staring importing crude in mid-2015.
That compares with an average of 31.3 million tonnes of
total crude imports a month for the first 11 months of the year.
Shandong Chambroad Petrochemicals Co, a teapot granted with
3.31 million tonnes in annual import quotas (66,000 bpd), said
it expects little change in quota policy for the coming year.
"It was a major policy decision for the government to let
teapots import foreign crude, and we have not noted any change,"
said Chambroad's spokeswoman Sun Chaoyang.
An official with China Petroleum and Chemical Industry
Federation, which screens potential new importers, agreed,
saying the agency expected to grant one or two new approvals
Teapots now have some 1.26 million bpd in crude quotas, and
their rise in the market has forced state refiners to scale back
some refinery operations and sent China's fuel exports surging
to record highs. C-FUEXP-PRM
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Tom Hogue)