(EnergyAsia, July 4 2012, Wednesday) — China’s energy use and production growth are showing signs of slowing down.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s electricity production grew by just 4.7% to just under 3,900 billion watt-hours in the first five months of the year, with thermal power output rising by just 4.1%.

Its oil refiners produced 71.546 million tons of diesel, up just 2.7% over the same period last year, while gasoline production was up by a more robust 7.3% to 35.743 million tons.

In a clear sign of a slowing economy, China’s apparent oil demand rose just 0.5% year-on-year in May to 39.72 million metric tons (mt), or 9.39 million b/d, said US energy media Platts.

According to US energy media Platts, the country’s May oil demand was the second lowest so far this year after April. May’s oil demand edged up 0.3% from a year ago to 38.32 million mt, or 9.36 million b/d.

“We’re still seeing low refining rates due to maintenance, although those were offset by a big jump in net product imports. Crude oil imports surged as well, but that was more likely due to state oil companies building up strategic reserves,” said Song Yen Ling, Platts senior writer for China.

Refinery processing rates contracted 0.7% year on year to 38.33 million mt, or 9.06 million b/d, according to data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). May’s daily processing volume was the second lowest this year after a processing rate of 9.03 million b/d in April.

Table: Domestic output and growth rates of energy products

Items                        May                  Jan-May 2012         % over Jan-May 20111
Crude oil
000 tons                  17,432             84,907                      -1.0%

000 tons                  7,110               35,743                       7.3%

000 tons                  1,765               8,537                         14.3%

000 tons                  14,455             71,546                      2.7%

000 tons                   1,268               6,400                        -3.4%

Power output, 100 billion watt-hours

Electrical power      3,898.1         19,101.6                     4.7%
– thermal power      3,014.7         15,776.3                     4.1%
– hydro power             665.5           2,226.1                      7.8%

SOURCE: National Bureau of Statistics