BEIJING/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Crude oil throughput at China’s refineries in August rose 6.9% from a year earlier to a record high on monthly basis, data showed on Monday, driven by a rebound in refining margins and a ramp-up in production at new plants.
Refinery runs climbed to 54 million tonnes last month, or about 12.72 million barrels per day (bpd), according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The August rate was up from 12.39 million bpd in July, but was still below the daily record of 13.07 million bpd in June, as new, large-scale plants accelerated their output.
China’s independent refineries, located mostly in east China’s Shandong province, have managed to claw their way back into the black since July after losses for most of the first half, executives from several independents said last week at an annual industry gathering in Singapore.
Refining margins were supported by a domestic fuel price rise and heavy exports, along with some production curbs in June.
“Plants were doing okay in July and August with thin margins like 200 to 300 yuan ($42.41) per tonne, but not sure how sustainable that is,” said one executive.
“Lots of uncertainties as we move into the fourth quarter with the Zhejiang plant ramping up production,” said a second executive, referring to the 400,000-bpd plant that started trial runs in late May at Zhoushan in east China’s Zhejiang province.
For the first eight months of 2019, Chinese crude throughput rose 5.9% from a year earlier to 424.16 million tonnes, or 12.74 million bpd, the NBS reported.
The data showed China’s crude oil production in August rose 1% from a year earlier to 16.18 million tonnes, or about 3.81 million bpd. That compares to 3.84 million bpd in July.
Output in the January to August period increased 1% from a year earlier to 127.49 million tonnes, or about 3.83 million bpd.
Top-producing oilfields Shengli in east China and Liaohe in the northeast suffered some output losses last month as a typhoon and heavy rainfall forced the closure of thousands of wells.
Natural gas output reached 13.8 billion cubic meters (bcm) last month, 6.6% higher than a year earlier, according to the data.
In the January to August period, China churned out 114.1 bcm of gas, up 9.3% from a year earlier, sustaining a strong growth rate as state energy producers boosted drilling, including for harder-to-develop shale gas, to curb soaring import dependence.
Reporting by Chen Aizhu and Muyu Xu; editing by Christian Schmollinger