Poten and Partners, one of the world’s most respected tanker brokers, has warned shipowners they can no longer take Chinese oil demand growth for granted.
Chinese oil imports have been the biggest source of growth for the tanker trades over the past two decades with demand growing from 4.7m barrels per day in 2000 to 13.8m in 2020, an average annual growth rate of 5.5%, making the People’s Republic by some distance the world’s largest crude importer.
However, noting various recent developments and announcements from Beijing, Poten has warned in its latest weekly report: “[T]he days of rapid, unbridled growth are behind us.”
At a conference in Beijing lastweek, Ma Yongsheng, the acting chairman of China Petroleum & Chemical Corp.(Sinopec), China’s largest oil conglomerate, said that China’s oil consumption is likely to peak around 2026 at about 16m barrels per day. This is only 1m barrels per day above the International Energy Agency’s estimate of China’s 2021 demand.
“The rapid adoption of electric cars is the main driver of this forecast, which also indicates that the focus of China’s oil demand will shift from fuels to petrochemicals,” Poten suggested.
Another recent development that is having an impact on Chinese crude oil flows is the government’s tightening supervision of the independent refining sector known as teapots. Teapot refineries account for about 35% of China’s total refining capacity.