China Oil Demand Climbed 8.2% Year over Year in May

China’s apparent oil demand* in May increased 8.2% from a year earlier to 43.80 million metric tons (mt), or an average 10.36 million barrels per day (b/d), according to a just-released Platts analysis of Chinese government data.

Apparent demand during the month was supported by healthy demand growth across all oil product categories.

China’s refinery throughput in May averaged 10.38 million b/d, rising 7.4% from a year earlier, data from the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed June 15. On the other hand, China was a net oil product exporter in May, with volumes totaling 120,000 mt, according to data released June 24 by the General Administration of Customs.

During the first five months of this year, China’s total apparent oil demand averaged 10.45 million b/d, an increase of 5.2% from the same period of 2014. This continues to be the fastest pace of year-to-date growth since 2011 and defies a relatively weak macroeconomic outlook.

“This was the fastest pace of growth since June 2013, when demand grew by 11.53%. Demand for all key products showed year-on-year increase in the month,” said Platts Associate Editorial Director for Asia oil news, Mriganka Jaipuriyar.

“Gasoil apparent demand could in reality be lower, as according to Platts estimates, gasoil stocks have risen 7.3% at the end of May from a year earlier.”

Gasoil is the most widely consumed oil product in China and demand has been hit in the last three years because of declining economic growth. Yet apparent demand in May expanded by a robust 7.4% year over year to 15.39 million mt.

Up to 70% of the fuel is used in the transport sector while the remainder is used by various sectors, including construction, farming and fishing, industrial heating and to power machinery.

Apparent demand for gasoil was up 4.3% over January to May to 74.21 million mt.

Demand for LPG in China has rebounded in the last two years following the start of new propane dehydrogenation plants in the petrochemicals sector. These facilities primarily use imported LPG as feedstock.

Apparent demand for LPG in May increased 13.9% year on year to 3.27 million mt, with net imports jumping 18.7% over the period to 730,000 mt. So far this year, apparent demand for LPG has gained 21.3% year over year to 15.29 million mt.

Meanwhile, apparent demand for gasoline climbed 13.7% year over year to 9.96 million mt, with year-to-date demand  growing 10% to 47.21 million mt.

According to Platts estimates, May gasoline stocks fell 10.1% at the end of May compared with the same period in 2014, suggesting that actual year-over-year demand growth would be higher than apparent demand.

Data from the NBS showed that sales of gasoline-guzzling SUVs and MPVs rose 43.9% and 7.8% year over year in May respectively, although overall gasoline passenger vehicle sales only edged up 0.7%.

Fuel Oil
Apparent demand for fuel oil in May increased 7.4% year over year to 2.72 million mt, the first positive growth since November 2013. Net fuel oil imports surged 61.8% during the month to 647,000 mt. Apparent demand for fuel oil during January to May tumbled 15.8% to 12.93 million mt.

The strong growth in fuel oil net imports can be attributed to higher run rates in teapot refineries, which use imported fuel oil as feedstock. In Shandong, home to 80% of China‘ teapot refineries, the average run rate was 47% in May, up seven percentage points from May 2014.



May ’14

% Chg

Apr ’15

Mar ’15

Feb ’15

Jan ’15

Net crude imports (million mt)








Crude production (million mt)








Apparent demand (million mt)








Apparent demand (‘000 b/d)








Sources: China’s General Administration of Customs, National Bureau of Statistics, Platts

Month-to-month demand in China is generally viewed to be subjected to short-term anomalies which are of interest and important to note, but often fail to reveal the country’s underlying demand trends. Year-to-year comparisons are viewed by the marketplace to be more indicative of the country’s energy profile.

*Platts calculates China’s apparent or implied oil demand on the basis of crude throughput volumes at the domestic refineries and net oil product imports, as reported by the NBS and Chinese customs. Platts also takes into account undeclared revisions in NBS historical data.

The government releases data on imports, exports, domestic crude production and refinery throughput data, but does not give official data on the country’s actual oil consumption figure and oil stockpiles. Official statistics on oil storage are released intermittently.

Platts releases its monthly calculation of China’s apparent demand between the 18th and 26th of every month via press release and via its website. Any use of this information must be appropriately attributed to Platts. Platts uses a conversion rate of 7.33 barrels of crude per metric ton, the widely-accepted benchmark for markets East of Suez.

For more information on crude oil, visit the Platts website at For Chinese-language information on oil and the energy and metals markets, visit

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