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China’s crude oil imports in October rebounded to the highest level since May, up 14 per cent from a low base a year earlier in their first annual growth in five months, data showed on Monday, as two greenfield refineries prepared to start operations.

The world’s largest crude importer brought in 43.14 million tonnes of crude oil last month, equivalent to 10.16 million barrels per day (bpd), according to data from the General Administration of Customs.

The October imports were up from September’s 9.8 million bpd.

The rebound came as PetroChina started trial production at a 200,000-barrel-per-day crude unit at its newly-built refinery in Guangdong, while privately controlled Shenghong Petrochemical also got ready to officially launch its 320,000-bpd plant in Jiangsu province.

Refiners also took advantage of a slide in global crude prices to replenish stocks, hauling in cargoes from the Americas and the Middle East.

Imports for the first 10 months of the year totalled 413.53 million tonnes, or about 9.93 million bpd, 2.7 per cent below the corresponding period last year.

Spurred by Beijing’s abrupt release of a large number of export quotas, companies shipped overseas 4.456 million tonnes of refined fuel last month, up 13 per cent from a year before, data showed.

However, year-to-date exports remained 24.5 per cent below year-earlier levels at 39.91 million tonnes, due to a broad curb on fuel exports earlier in the year.

Natural gas imports last month via pipelines and as liquefied natural gas (LNG) sank to the lowest level in two years at 7.61 million tonnes, after a brief spike the previous month ahead of the winter heating season.

Year-to-date imports remained 10.4 per cent lower than a year earlier at 88.73 million tonnes, because of steep declines in LNG imports as companies slashed costly spot purchases.

While predicting slower demand growth this winter, national energy firms prioritized domestic production and boosted imports of pipeline gas from Russia and Central Asia.

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