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Oil Imports Have Biggest Fall in 10 Months
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China's crude oil imports had their biggest fall in 10 months because of high prices and rising domestic production.

China, the world's biggest consumer of the fuel after the US, bought 10.3 million metric tons of oil from overseas last month, 7.1 percent less than a year earlier, the General Administration of Customs said yesterday.

"The focus on energy-saving and becoming more self-reliant played a part in cutting imports," said Wu Jun, an oil analyst at China International Futures (Shanghai) Co. "China's oil imports have been falling with high prices a main factor."

China's economy tripled to US$1.7 trillion in the last decade, prompting a jump in fuel use, worsening pollution in the country's cities and helping to push global energy prices to records. Crude oil rose to an all-time high of US$70.85 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on August 30. Oil prices are 32 percent higher than a year ago.

China's oil import bill last month rose 15.6 percent to US$4.3 billion, the administration said. In the first 11 months, the nation spent US$43.3 billion on oil imports, 43.5 percent more than a year earlier. The bureau said on December 12 imports in the first 11 months were 120 million tons. China's oil imports fell 24 percent to 7.8 million tons in January.

Crude oil production in China rose 2.4 percent in November to 14.8 million tons. Output increased 4.1 percent in the first 11 months to 166 million tons, said the China Mainland Marketing Research Co, which compiles data for National Bureau of Statistics.

Crude oil imports rose 4.3 percent to 115.5 million tons in the first 11 months of this year. November oil-product imports fell 34 percent to 2.57 million tons, and declined 18 percent to 28.25 million tons in the first 11 months of this year, customs said this month.

Imports of fuel oil, burned to generate electricity and power ships, fell 41 percent to 1.9 million tons last month and declined 14.5 percent to 22.7 million tons in the first 11 months, the bureau said yesterday.

"Increasingly, major fuel-oil users like steel makers are using natural gas and coal-tar oil in their furnaces instead of burning fuel oil," Wu said.

In November, China's coal imports rose 22 percent to 2.5 million tons. They gained 40 percent to 23.2 million tons in the first 11 months of the year.

China's consumption of crude oil may rise 6.2 percent to 310 million tons this year because high oil prices increased refiners' raw material costs, the State Council's Development Research Centre said in a report on November 25. Demand next year may rise 6.7 percent to 331 million tons next year, it said.

The nation's oil consumption climbed 16 percent last year to 308.6 million tons, according to BP Plc.

(China Daily December 27, 2005)

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