Poten warns tanker owners on limited growth prospects for Chinese oil demand

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.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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