By Andrew Hayley
BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s oil refinery throughput in July rose 17.4% from a year earlier, data showed on Tuesday, as refiners maintained high processing rates to cater to domestic fuel demand over the summer travel season.
Total refinery throughput in the world’s second-largest oil consumer was 63.13 million metric tons last month, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed.
July’s production was the equivalent of 14.87 million barrels per day (bpd), up from a low base of 12.5 million bpd a year earlier when refiners cut back runs as the country faced extensive COVID-19 lockdowns.
Production was up marginally from the 14.83 million bpd of oil processed in June.
State-owned refineries raised their processing rates in July to an average of 78%-82%, up 2-3 percentage points from June, according to data from consultancy Zhuochuang.
Domestic fuel demand has picked up with the arrival of the summer travel season, notably in gasoline and jet fuel. Domestic gasoline inventories fell around 3% between mid-June and mid-July, according to data from China-based consultancy Longzhong.
Chinese refiners have also capitalised on strong fuel profit margins in the region, with refined fuel product exports in July rising 55.8% from a year earlier, according to customs data released last week.
China’s crude oil imports in July pared back from close-to-record levels during the previous month, totalling 43.7 million metric tons, or 10.3 million bpd, according to the customs data.
The NBS data on Tuesday also showed China’s domestic crude oil production in July was 17.31 million metric tons, or 4.1 million bpd, versus 17.13 million metric tons in 2022.
Natural gas production was up 7.6% from a year earlier to 18.4 billion cubic metres (bcm) from last year’s 17.1 bcm.
(Reporting by Andrew Hayley; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Christian Schmollinger)