OREANDA-NEWS. February 08, 2012. China's net crude oil imports are expected to rise 5.9 percent this year, the slowest growth rate since 2006, as a slack export market cuts into consumption, local media reported, citing a report by top oil firm China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC).

Net crude imports in the world's second-largest oil consumer are estimated at 266 million tonnes, or 5.32 million barrels per day (bpd), in 2012 versus 251.26 million tonnes (5.03 million bpd) last year, according to the report in the Beijing Times.

"China's economic growth will be easing along with a further slowdown in global economic growth, thus the rapid growth in oil consumption (in recent years) could ease," it said.

In 2012, domestic demand and supply of diesel is expected to be "generally balanced," while gasoline will experience a glut, it added.

China's rising fuel consumption drove global oil demand growth in 2011, with implied oil demand increasing by 6.3 percent from a year earlier, halving the rate in 2010, as slowing economy reined in demand.

Analysts have said China is set to lead the world again in 2012 with 500,000-600,000 bpd of incremental oil use, or around 5-7 percent, even as a lacklustre global economy weighs on the country's export-focused manufacturing sector.

That would be quicker than the 4.3-percent growth, or 410,000 bpd, the International Energy Agency estimated in January.