China's oil demand is expected to return to 16 million barrels per day as economic activity rebounds, a top official of US-based oil market consultancy Rapidan Energy Group said.

Clay Seigle, Director - Global Oil Service, said the increase in oil demand would be driven by fiscal stimulus, a pickup in transportation activity, and a robust crude oil import and refined product export programme.

"We see China clawing back to and reaching again that important 16 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil demand that it had before," he said during a virtual interview with Dubai-based Gulf Intelligence.

He said China would move past the "very difficult phase" of re-openings that have increased coronavirus outbreaks in the country, adding that the government is determined to drive economic growth this year, which will require more lifting of limitations on transportation, on mobility.

"That's the main reason we see increased oil demand and consumption of fuels from China this year. We're also expecting a strong fiscal stimulus with a package of measures from the central government that will drive fuel demand, for example, in the infrastructure sector, big construction runs on fuels like diesel."

Seigle pointed out that China is also expected to allow its independent refineries to import as much cheap Russian crude oil as possible.

"Private refineries in China have been running below capacity [of] around 70 percent, and that capacity itself is poised to increase by another 10 percent or so this year, so that policy is also going to drive demand for crude oil imports," he said.

(Writing by Anoop Menon; Editing by Bhaskar Raj)