China: No Accelerated Oil SPR Release

Published on November 22, 2021
SGH Insight
“At present, China’s crude oil supply is sufficient, the supply and demand of crude oil is very balanced. Although US President Joe Biden wants China to release its strategic petroleum reserves along with the US, China does not have the need to release our SPR immediately. We will take caution in releasing strategic crude oil reserves,” said one senior source.

In practice, China publicly announced a modest release of its SPR twice over the last fourth months, but our understanding is that China has adjusted SPR data almost every month under its own timetable, without any publicly announcement. Perhaps more to the point, on oil policy, China is keen to maintain its relations with Russia and Saudi Arabia rather than be seen to simply embrace a US request.
Market Validation
Policy Validation

Reuters 11/24/21

Speaking in a daily press briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian again declined to comment on whether China was participating in the oil stocks releases coordinated by the United States.

"The Chinese side will organise a release of crude oil from state reserves according to its own actual needs," said Zhao, adding that it would publish relevant information without delay.

Zhao said that China would maintain communication and co-operation to ensure the long-term stability of the oil market.

According to official Chinese sources, China’s current total crude oil stockpiles, including the Strategic Petroleum Reserves, state-owned commercial crude oil reserves, and private commercial crude oil reserves, remained above 140 days of net imports.

China’s four major oil companies (CNPC, Sinopec, CNOOC, ChemChina) and China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco) they say are negotiating with oil companies from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Angola, Iran, and others for 2022 crude oil trade contracts, and they are satisfied with the talks so far.  

“At present, China’s crude oil supply is sufficient, the supply and demand of crude oil is very balanced. Although US President Joe Biden wants China to release its strategic petroleum reserves along with the US, China does not have the need to release our SPR immediately. We will take caution in releasing strategic crude oil reserves,” said one senior source.  

In practice, China publicly announced a modest release of its SPR twice over the last fourth months, but our understanding is that China has adjusted SPR data almost every month under its own timetable, without any publicly announcement. Perhaps more to the point, on oil policy, China is keen to maintain its relations with Russia and Saudi Arabia rather than be seen to simply embrace a US request.  

For October, China’s actual imports of crude oil registered at 40.24 million tons, 2.44 million tons higher than the 37.80 million tons published by the GAC (General Administration of Customs). And over the first ten months of 2021, China imported 442.72 million tons of crude oil, 30.71 million tons less than the 473.43 million tons over the same period last year, but also higher than the 425.06 million tons reported by the GAC numbers. 

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