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China’s Energy Imports Weaken as Virus Exacts Toll on Demand

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These translations are done via Google Translate

By Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) China’s overseas energy purchases weakened in March as demand from the top importer took a hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Crude oil imports fell to the equivalent of about 9.72 million barrels a day, the least since July, according to customs data released Tuesday.
  • Natural gas shipments were little changed from a year ago at 6.92 million tons in March. That compares with a growth of about 18% in the same month last year.
  • Coal imports fell from the first two months to 27.8 million tons in March, but were still almost 19% higher than a year ago.

Key Insights

  • Crude oil imports shrank as lofty stockpiles at both ports and refineries restricted new purchases. Fuel demand was also lower amid travel bans, work-from-home, canceled vacations and disrupted supply chains.
  • The high inventory situation was mirrored in natural gas and coal, while rising temperatures curbed demand for heating.
  • Some ports in southern China have cut coal import quotas after a 33% y/y surge in January and February shipments. More restrictions could follow if domestic prices extend their recent losses.
  • There are signs that liquefied natural gas purchases will pick up in the months ahead as Chinese importers become more active. Smaller utilities are taking advantage of cheap prices while their bigger rivals struggle to consume all their contracted supply.

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  • Oil product exports, including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, were steady in March at 7.26 million tons from a year ago.
  • In the first quarter,
    • Crude oil imports climbed 5% y/y to 127 million tons
    • Natural gas rose 1.8% to 24.7 million tons.
    • Coal purchases jumped 28% to 95.8 million tons.
    • Oil product exports rose 9.6% to 18 million tons.

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