China's Jan-Feb gasoline exports surge 32% as virus dents domestic demand

Diesel exports rose 3.5% to 3.47mln tonnes

Color gasoline, diesel, pumps. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Color gasoline, diesel, pumps. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Getty Images/Sol de Zuasnabar Brebbia

BEIJING/SINGAPORE- China's gasoline exports surged 31.5% over the first two months of 2020 as the coronavirus outbreak disrupted production and travel, denting demand for fuels within the country.

Gasoline shipments jumped in January and February jumped from the same period a year ago to 2.72 million tonnes, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Tuesday.

Diesel exports rose 3.5% to 3.47 million tonnes.

Customs did not release separate data for January and February.

The outbreak of the flu-like epidemic, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and infected more than 80,000 people across mainland China, prompted authorities to impose travel restrictions and to extend the Lunar New Year holiday to rein in its spread.

Oil refineries lowered throughput levels to reduce the impact of tepid demand, but China's refined oil inventory still reached a record high in February.

China National Petroleum Corp's (CNPC) research institute has estimated refined oil product demand will fall 35.7% in the first quarter compared to a year ago, leading to a surplus of 27.08 million tonnes in the local market.

CNPC, Asia's top oil and gas firm, said its refined oil sales in February fell 45% year-on-year.

"In order to digest the inventory, (CNPC) increased refined oil exports and saw the exports level hit a record high in February even though the Guangxi refinery, a major exporter in the group, was under overhaul," CNPC said in a statement last week.

China's jet kerosene exports jumped 21.1% to 2.93 million tonnes in the first two months, customes data showed.

China's total aviation fuel sales plunged 64% in February from a year earlier to 860,000 tonnes, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter, as flights were cancelled worldwide.

China-based consultancy JLC expects refined oil exports in April to reach 5.29 million tonnes, down 0.6% on year, with gasoline exports up 38.8% and diesel exports down 16.6%.

The customs data also showed that imports of liquefied natural gas rose 2.3% to 11.13 million tonnes over January and February.

CNPC's listed arm PetroChina had suspended some natural gas imports as a seasonal plunge in demand adds to the impact on consumption from the coronavirus outbreak.

Below is the latest customs data on fuel exports in millions of tonnes and imports of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, in millions of tonnes.

(Reporting by Muyu Xu in Beijing and Chen Aizhu in Singapore; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Richard Pullin) ((; +86 10 56692117;))

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