OREANDA-NEWS. August 22, 2013. China's crude imports in July soared to a record high of 6.15 million barrels per day (bpd), up 14 percent from a month ago, as refiners replenished inventories to meet higher runs and a new condensate splitter started test operations.

China, the world's No.2 crude buyer after the United States, shipped in 26.11 million tonnes in July, according to data from the General Administration of Customs. On a daily basis, imports rose 19.6 percent from 5.14 million bpd a year ago.

The July imports were 760,000 bpd more than June's 5.39 million bpd, the data showed on Thursday, outstripping the previous record of 6.01 million bpd hit in May 2012.

China's oil demand is expected to grow to 9.96 million bpd in 2013, up 3.75 percent, and account for nearly half of the global consumption growth of around 790,000 bpd, according to the latest International Energy Agency report.

Over the first seven months of the year, crude imports rose 1.4 percent to 5.65 million bpd, customs data showed.

Top Asian refiner Sinopec Corp <0386.HK> is expected to process 60 million tonnes, or 4.76 million bpd, of crude in the third quarter of this year, up 3 to 4 percent from the second quarter, energy consultancy ICIS C1 Energy has said.

China's imports may also get a boost from purchases by Dragon Aromatics, owned by Taiwan's Xianglu Group, which is one of China's biggest independent petrochemical producers.

It has emerged as a regular importer of condensate since late last year and in early July started test runs at its 4 million tonnes-per-year condensate splitter, bringing in condensate from Iran and Indonesia. China counts condensate as crude oil.

Also contributing to higher overseas crude purchases will be Sinopec's Wuhan refinery in central China, which was started up in July after its capacity was expanded to 160,000 bpd from 100,000 bpd.

China's commercial crude oil inventories dropped 1.42 percent by the end of June from a month ago, official news agency Xinhua has said, the first fall after rising three months in a row.

China's oil product exports were 2.03 million tonnes in July, while oil product imports were 3.25 million tonnes, leaving net oil product imports at 1.22 million tonnes, down 7.6 percent versus a year ago, the customs data showed.