China August refinery output near 2-year lows on outages

(Reuters) - China's refinery crude throughput remained near two-year lows in August due to outages at several state refiners and independent plants which curbed production amid thinning margins and tepid demand.

Refiners processed 53.66 MMt of crude oil last month, 6.5% less than a year earlier, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Friday.

That is equivalent to 12.64 MMbpd, which was a touch higher than 12.53 MMbpd in July but still among the lowest processing levels since early 2020.

Throughput in the first eight months was 434.89 MMt, down 6.3% on a year before and equal to about 13.06 MMbpd.

China's fuel demand has been hit hard this year as Beijing's tough COVID-19 control measures stifled mobility and economic activity, with analysts predicting the first annual contraction in oil demand in two decades.

Affecting August output, Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Corp's 320,000-bpd crude facility only resumed partial operation in mid way through the month after more than seven weeks' of unplanned shutdown.

And PetroChina Wepec's 200,000-bpd plant only resumed operation in late August after nearly a three months' outage.

Meanwhile, operations at independent refiners in the eastern refining hub of Shandong averaged at just under 65% of capacity in August, down from 70% in July, according to Chinese commodities consultancy JLC.

Independent plants faced policy headwinds with Beijing launching a new tax probe that is set to squeeze their profit margins.

Friday's NBS data showed China's crude oil production last month slipped 0.2% from a year earlier to 16.94 MMt, with daily output at 3.99 MMbpd.

Crude oil production in the first eight months rose 3.2% from a year earlier to 136.94 MMt(4.11 MMbpd).

Natural gas production was up 6.3% in August on the year at 17 B cubic meters. Year-to-date production was up 5.5% at 143.7 bcm.

(Ton = 7.3 barrels for crude conversion) (Reporting by Chen Aizhu; editing by Richard Pullin)

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