China's appetite for oil imports increases

Aug. 15, 2011 at 11:21 AM
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BEIJING, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- China's dependence on imported oil grew to 55.2 percent in the first five months of this year up from 55 percent last year, reports state-run news agency Xinhua, citing figures from China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

In 2009, however, China's dependence on imported oil rose to 33 percent.

MIT figures indicate China's oil consumption rose 10.3 percent year on year to 198 million tons in the first five months this year. During that period, oil imports rose 11.3 percent to 107 million tons.

China's rising appetite for imported oil poses a threat to the country's energy security, experts told Xinhua, saying the government should beef up energy management to ensure future supplies.

Tong Xiaoguang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, predicts China's dependence on imported oil to reach 60 percent by 2020 and 65 percent by 2030, pointing to continued urbanization and industrialization.

Tong said the Chinese government should set a ceiling for oil consumption and adopt measures to keep consumption within the ceiling volume.

A CAE study on China's mid- and long-term energy development strategy shows that China will need 644 million tons of crude oil annually even at the lowest forecast demand for 2030.

Yet growth in China's apparent oil consumption, which equals production plus net imports, is expected to slide to 5 percent a year on average from 2011 to 2015, reflecting slower economic expansion in the world's second largest economy and its efforts to cut emissions, says the China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Federation.

That compares with China's average annual growth of 7.7 percent in apparent oil consumption from 2006-10.

"We project domestic apparent oil demand, which includes domestic production and imports but excludes exports, will have a year-on-year rise of 6 percent in 2011, broadly easing from the first half of this year," Fan Debiao, who heads the federation's information and marketing department, told China Daily newspaper.

Dong Xiucheng, professor with the China University of Petroleum, warned that the Chinese government should take note that the country's oil consumption growth has already outpaced that of the overall economy, signifying that its economic development has largely depended on energy-intensive industries.

The International Energy Agency's monthly oil market report released last week, indicating a cooling in the expansion of global oil demand, said the decline was led by China, in which oil demand fell by 1.5 percent from May to June.

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