(EnergyAsia, March 29 2011, Tuesday) — China’s apparent oil demand in February rose 10.1% year-over-year to 36.65 million metric tons (mt), or an average 9.58 million b/d, to record the second strongest demand level, according to leading energy information provider Platts.

Based on recent figures released by the Chinese government, the company’s analysis showed oil demand in February was 4.2% higher than January’s 9.19 million b/d, and just slightly lower than the all-time high of 9.62 million b/d reached last December.

Platts attributed the rebound in oil demand, after a dip in January, to increased crude throughput by several refineries ahead of scheduled turnarounds and higher production by other plants resuming operations after planned maintenance downtime.

Calvin Lee, Platts senior writer in China, said:

”Chinese oil companies have been eager to pile up on inventories of refined products, particularly diesel, to ensure adequate supplies to drought-hit areas and in anticipation of peak demand during the spring farming season between February and April.”

Platts said data from China’s General Administration of Customs showed crude oil imports by the world’s second largest oil consumer rose 7.8% year-over-year in February to 19.95 million mt, or 5.22 million b/d, as exports fell to a three-year low of 80,000 mt, which was 63.64% lower than a year ago.

The company said imports of crude oil continued to climb last month as Chinese companies relied on foreign barrels to meet their feedstock requirements, with domestic crude production expected to remain flat this year. Chinese state-owned refineries processed 35.21 million mt of crude oil in February, or an average of 9.22 million b/d, surpassing the previous record high of 9.16 million b/d in December, according to National Bureau of Statistics data.

Platt’s report showed crude throughput was 10.4% more than a year ago, and 4.9% greater than January’s 8.79 million b/d.

Refineries belonging to Sinopec and PetroChina were earlier projected to raise crude runs to an average 89% in February, compared with 85% in January, according to a Platts monthly survey. The refineries operated at 80% capacity in December.

February’s increased crude throughput came mainly from Sinopec, which plans to process 228 million mt of crude oil in 2011, up 8% from 211 million mt in 2010, industry sources told Platts.

Net oil products imports in February were 5.1% higher year-over-year at 1.44 million mt, but 15.8% less than net oil product imports of 1.71 million mt recorded in January.

Mr Lee added: “Crude throughput will likely see a small dip in March as several refineries head into complete shutdown for scheduled maintenance. However, the likely drop will be minimal as Sinopec is poised to increase refinery run rates at some plants to make up for some of the lost throughput.”

Crude production was 15.90 million mt for February 2011, up 5.23% from 15.11 million mt in February 2010. Previous months recorded 17.81 million mt (January 2011), 17.52 million mt (December 2010), 17.52 million mt (November 2010), 17.75 million mt (October 2010).

Apparent demand was calculated as 36.65 million mt for February 2011, up 10.13% from 33.28 million mt in February 2010. Previous months were computed as 38.90 million mt (January 2011), 40.73 million mt (December 2010), 38.09 million mt (November 2010), 37.88 million mt (October 2010).

Platts calculates China’s apparent or implied oil demand on the basis of crude throughput volumes at the domestic refineries and net oil product imports, as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics and Chinese customs. Platts releases its monthly calculation of China’s apparent demand between the 18th and 26th of every month via press release and via its website.

The Chinese government releases data on imports, exports, domestic crude production and refinery throughput data, but does not give official data on the country’s actual oil consumption figure and oil stockpiles. Official statistics on oil storage are released intermittently.

New York Stock Exchange-listed Platts, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies, is an independent information provider with customers from more than 150 countries. The company serves the oil, natural gas, electricity, emissions, nuclear power, coal, petrochemical, shipping, and metals markets from 17 offices worldwide.