Soaring oil prices have not slowed China's consumption of oil as statistics show that China's apparent consumption of crude oil and refined oil products both hit record highs in the first quarter of the year.
According to statistics released Tuesday by the China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Association (CPCIA), China's apparent consumption of oil products composed of gasoline, diesel and kerosene rose by 16.5 percent year on year to 52.73 million tonnes in the first three months, and crude oil, rose by eight percent to91.8 million tonnes.
The "apparent consumption" represents the sum of net imports and output and could be taken as an index for the real oil consumption excluding inventory.
The growth of oil products consumption was a record high and much higher than the same period of last year, which was only 3.6 percent, said Shu Zhaoxia, professor of the Economics and Development Research Institute of China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec Group). Sinopec Group is China's top oil refiner.
The growth of crude oil consumption was 2.5 percentage points higher than a year ago.
State ceilings on prices of domestic oil products was the major reason contributing to China's surging oil consumption in the first quarter.
Below-cost fuel prices did not restrain China's demand for oil but rather boosted it, said Shu.
China's gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 10.6 percent in the first quarter, 1.1 percentage points down from a year ago but still at a high level.
Deng Yusong, a researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council, said that abnormal needs boosted by below-cost prices of refined oil products controlled by the central government over concerns of the country's rising CPI is another major reason contributing to the country's surging oil consumption.
State ceiling on domestic oil products prices has led to both smuggling and cornering of oil products, said Shu.
According to Shu, reconstruction of the country's snow-hit south also increased the real demand for oil products.
China's crude oil output rose by 2.2 percent to 46.85 million tonnes in the first quarter.
The output of gasoline went up 7.0 percent from a year ago to 15.7 million tonnes, diesel, up 11.2 percent to 32.4 million tonnes, and kerosene, up 17.5 percent to 3.03 million tonnes, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
China processed 84.6 million tonnes of crude oil in the first quarter, up 7.6 percent from a year ago. The growth rate was two percentage points higher than the first three months of last year.
China's net imports of crude oil was 44.95 million tonnes in the first quarter, up 14.9 percent, and net imports of oil products rose by 31.8 percent from a year ago to 5.47 million tonnes, according to General Administration of Customs.
China's imports of diesel in the first quarter surged over 600 percent to 1.66 million tonnes and the imports of gasoline, rose by nearly twice to 76,654 tonnes.