BEIJING -China's crude oil imports in May dipped 14.6per cent from a high base a year earlier, with daily arrivals hitting the lowest level this year, as maintenance at refineries limited consumption of the raw material.
May arrivals were 40.97 million tonnes, data released by the General Administration of Customs showed on Monday, equivalent to 9.65 million barrels per day (bpd).
That compares to 9.82 million bpd in April and 11.3 million bpd in May last year when Chinese buyers snapped up cheap oil amid the spread of the coronavirus.
About 1.2 million bpd of China's refining capacity was offline in May, up from 1 million bpd in April, according to Refinitiv analysts.
Refinery utilisation rates are expected to rebound in coming months as refineries resume operations following maintenance work, analysts say.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has been ramping up scrutiny of the oil industry by imposing taxes on key blending fuels and investigating crude imports at state energy giants and independent refiners.
The tax policy is expected to hit demand of bitumen blend, mostly shipped from Malaysia, which analysts say is based on heavy crude from Venezuela and Iran.
For refined oil products, customs data on Monday also showed exports in May fell to 5.41 million tonnes from 6.82 million tonnes in April, but jumped 38.9per cent higher versus a year earlier.
Total natural gas imports, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) and piped gas, reached 10.32 million tonnes, up from 10.15 million tonnes in April and 7.84 million tonnes in May 2020.
Shiptracking data showed that China's LNG imports hit more than 7 million tonnes in May, a record volume for the month, buoyed by robust industrial activity and power generation demand in southern China.
(Reporting by Muyu Xu and Shivani Singh; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Muralikumar Anantharaman)