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China heads for record crude buying year

As China closes in on the United States as the world's biggest crude oil importer, demand from private refiners and stockpiling of cheap oil is expected to keep imports at record levels after a wobble in the third quarter.

Despite slower growth in recent months - crude imports rose just 1.3 percent in September on a year earlier - buying for October-November delivery has picked up strongly, traders and analysts say.

The purchases will ease concerns of a sharp slowdown in Chinese buying and support prices in coming months, analysts said.

The increased buying has shown up in tanker movements and freight rates, said Energy Aspects analyst Virendra Chauhan, and analysts are upgrading earlier forecasts for second half growth.

"Despite a slowing Chinese economy, crude imports remain robust on the back of accelerated stockpiling activities into operating and commercial storage," said Wendy Yong, analyst at oil consultancy FGE.

Since July, China has also granted nearly 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude import quotas to small refiners, known as "teapots", or roughly 10 percent of China's current total imports...


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