April 17, 2019 / 2:46 AM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1 -China March refinery runs ease off record, crude output accelerates

* March runs off record, but up 3.2 pct on yr

* March crude output 3.89 mln bpd, highest in at least a yr

* Natural gas output near peak

SHANGHAI/SINGAPORE, April 17 (Reuters) - Refinery output in China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer, eased from record highs in March after maintenance shutdowns offset production from a new mega refinery.

Refinery throughput in March rose 3.2 percent from a year earlier to 53.04 million tonnes, or 12.49 million barrels per day (bpd), data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Wednesday.

For the first quarter, crude runs rose 4.4 percent on a year earlier to 155.37 million tonnes, or 12.6 million bpd.

March throughput was down from record rates in the January to February period at 12.68 million bpd.

A number of Chinese refineries, including China National Offshore Oil Corp’s Huizhou refinery and Sinopec Corp’s Changling refinery, were closed last month for maintenance, which peaks during the second quarter before demand rises in the third quarter.

But privately-run Hengli Petrochemical’s new 400,000-bpd refinery in Dalian entered full commercial operations in late March, bolstering overall throughput.

For the month, China pumped 16.54 million tonnes of crude oil or 3.89 million barrels per day, up 2.1 percent from a year ago and the highest daily level in at least a year.

The increases showed that efforts by state-run oil firms to accelerate domestic drilling paid off, halting the decline in the country’s output over the past three years.

Natural gas output last month rose 9.8 percent to 15.1 billion cubic meters (bcm), a touch below December’s record 15.3 bcm.

For the first quarter, gas production rose 9.4 percent to 44 bcm.

tonne = 7.3 barrels for crude oil Reporting by Meng Meng in SHANGHAI and Chen Aizhu in SINGAPORE; editing by Richard Pullin

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