April 17 (UPI) -- While posting better-than-expected growth for the first quarter, the Chinese statistics bureau said Monday that crude oil production was down from last year.
China reported crude oil production down 6.8 percent compared with the first quarter of 2016. The National Bureau of Statistics reported Monday that national output was lower because industry costs were elevated, oil imports increased and refineries curbed activity.
According to the official Xinhua News Agency, China produced 350 million barrels of oil during the first quarter. The official news agency stated that "accelerating exploration to ensure domestic oil supply, speeding up construction of pipeline networks and developing clean alternatives" are among the national priorities for the Chinese energy sector.
According to pricing agency S&P Global Platts, China's oil demand is up 5.3 percent year-over-year because of the infusion into oil storage tanks, a boost in holiday travel and "robust" economic growth. As the second-largest economy in the world, behind the United States, the Chinese government said Monday that first quarter growth was 6.9 percent, above the full-year target of 6.5 percent.
Mao Shengyong, a spokesperson for the statistics bureau, said the first quarter figures were indicative of an economy growing at its fastest rate in a year and a half.
"Generally speaking, the national economy has continued with stable and sound momentum in the first quarter as growth rebounded moderately and economic adjustment was steadily promoted," the spokesperson said.
Economists at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reported in their market report for April that full-year growth for China was moderating from 6.7 percent last year to an estimated 6.3 percent, though that still outpaces most other major economies, apart from India.
Elsewhere, China said its production of natural gas more than doubled from last year as China National Petroleum Corp. advances in shale projects in southwest Sichuan Province.
"China has been making efforts to improve its energy structure, shifting away from traditional energy sources such as coal," Xinhua reported.