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China''s crude oil imports expected to sharply down

TOKYO, Dec 25 (KUNA) -- China's crude oil imports are expected to register a year-on-year growth of 1.2 percent in 2008, down sharply from 14.7 percent in 2007 and 14.5 percent in 2006, the state-run China Daily reported Thursday.
According to the newspaper, China National Petroleum Corporation, China's largest oil company, has published the estimate, saying the world's second-biggest oil consumer will import 189 million tons of crude oil in 2008, up 1.2 percent from 2007.
The growth rate surprised some market observers who thought the government would take advantage of low world oil prices to increase reserves, the daily said.
The global price of oil has plummeted from July's USD 147 per barrel to this month's average of USD 40 per barrel.
China imported 164.5 million tons of crude oil during the first 11 months this year, up 9.5 percent year-on-year, according to China Customs. But the nation only imported 13.36 million tons of crude oil in November alone, down 1.
86 percent from a year earlier. Compared with October, the amount decreased by 17.3 percent.
"China's oil demand is still on the downward cycle, and the first two quarters of 2009 are the hardest time," said Guo Haitao, assistant director of Research Center for Energy Strategy. "This is because oil demand reflects economic performance," the daily quoted Guo as saying.
According to China Association of Oil and Chemical Industry, the growth rate of China's oil consumption slowed from 6.1 percent for January-October to 5.8 percent for January-November over the previous year. Official statistics show China processed 27.27 million tons of crude oil in November, down 2.3 percent from the previous year.
Energy analysts said industrial diesel demand nationwide was down 20 percent to 30 percent so far this year as many smaller factories have closed.
The report also said PetroChina, the country's largest oil producer, planned to process some 10.05 million tons of crude in December, 800,000 tons less than in November, and Sinopec, China's largest oil refiner, planned to refine 12.2 million tons, down 1.32 million tons. (end) mk.ema KUNA 250900 Dec 08NNNN