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AsianOil: Chinese refinery throughput down amid lockdowns

Chinese refinery throughput was down 11% year on year in April, the latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) have shown.
According to the NBS, China’s crude throughput totalled 51.81mn tonnes in April, equivalent to 12.61mn barrels per day. This compares with throughput of 13.8mn bpd in March 2022 and 14.09mn bpd in April 2022.
Over the first four months of the year, refinery throughput amounted to 13.58mn bpd, down 3.8% y/y.
This came as refiners scaled back operations amid ongoing lockdowns in China as Beijing persisted with its efforts to eradicate the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country – a strategy that looks increasingly futile since the emergence of the omicron variant.
Indeed, the refinery throughput levels seen in April were the lowest since March 2020 – when the first wave of lockdowns was taking place in response to what had by that point become a pandemic. Now, even as much of the rest of the world eases restrictions, China’s latest lockdowns are once again hitting its energy sector, as well as the country’s economy more broadly.
Demand for refined products has fallen, with gasoline and aviation fuel reported to be the worst hit. And China’s vehicle sales in April fell by almost 48% y/y.
State-owned refining giant Sinopec reduced its utilisation rate to around 86% from 92.5% earlier in the year, while independent refiners, concentrated in Shandong Province and known as teapots, are reported to have been operating at less than half their capacity in April.
Despite all of this, China was reported last week to have imported more crude in April, according to Bloomberg calculations. This was attributed to increased seaborne supplies from Russia.