China’s annual crude oil imports slid 5.4% in 2021, dropping for the first time since 2001, as Beijing clamped down on the refining sector to curb excess domestic fuel production while refiners drew down massive inventories.
China has been the global oil demand driver for the last decade, accounting for 44% of worldwide growth in oil imports since 2015, when Beijing started issuing import quotas to independent refiners. Benchmark Brent crude oil weakened slightly to $84.40 per barrel in the wake of the data release.
The fall in shipments into the world’s top crude importer, to 512.98 million tonnes (equivalent to 10.26 million barrels per day) from 2020’s 542.39 million tonnes, was shown in data from the General Administration of Chinese Customs on Friday.
Reuters last year reported slowing imports into the world’s No. 2 refiner as Beijing scrutinized tax evasion and irregular quota trading among independent refineries and also cut fuel export quotas to restrain crude processing.