China’s crude throughput fell slightly in December, with both state-run and independent refiners posting lower run rates due to some maintenance works toward the year-end, latest industry data and information collected by S&P Global Platts showed.
State-run PetroChina’s average run rate fell this month due to maintenance at its subsidiary refineries, while another state-owned Sinopec’s run rates at its refineries were relatively steady from November.
The average run rate of the four state-owned oil majors, Sinopec, PetroChina, CNOOC and Sinochem, stood at around 78% to date in December, compared with the 80% average in November, according to the data.
The state-run refiners plan to process 6.9 million b/d of crude oil in December combined, accounting for 78% of their nameplate capacity of 8.86 million b/d. In comparison, the refiners processed 7.1 million b/d of crude oil in November, 80% of their nameplate capacity.
A total of 39 refineries are managed by the state-run companies. They include 20 Sinopec refineries, 17 PetroChina refineries, CNOOC’s Huizhou Petrochemical and Sinochem’s Quanzhou Petrochemical refinery.
PetroChina’s Yunnan Petrochemical refinery in Southwestern China was shut for maintenance from Dec. 5, pulling down the state-run oil company’s average run rate for the month.
The company’s Sichuan Petrochemical plant in the same region, raised its December run rate by about four percentage points from November, due to improved downstream margins.
Further in the north, Dalian Wepec refinery has raised its run rate slightly since the refinery has finished the maintenance at one of its secondary units, thus lifting the overall run rates by about eight percentage points to around 78% in December.
In addition, Daqing Petrochemical in northeastern Heilongjiang province, has gradually ramped up crude throughput, with the plant’s new crude distillation unit processing more Far East Russian ESPO blend crude, according to sources with close knowledge of the refinery operation.
Sinopec has kept its average run rate steady from November at around 82% of its capacity, Platts data showed.
Its Jinling Petrochemical refinery slashed its run rate by 21 percentage points from November, as the plant’s 8 million mt/year CDU as well as some of its secondary units will be shut completely for the month.
Meanwhile, three of Sinopec’s other refineries including Qingdao Petrochemical, Wuhan Petrochemical and Qilu Petrochemical, have restarted after the completion of maintenance, making up for the crude throughput loss by Jinling.
Qilu Petrochemical, which has restarted its units since late November, has yet to ramp up its run rate in December back to its normal level of around 85%, due to the emission control measures put in place in the region during winter.
In addition, some refineries have cut production yields of several oil products but raised their output of petrochemicals, due to better downstream margins, according to a Sinopec refinery source.
China’s independent refineries have mostly lowered their run rates in December, with the exception of Hengli Petrochemical (Dalian) refinery.
The 20 million mt/year Hengli refinery in Northeastern China lifted its run rate to around 107% in December from 105% last month.
Although it has been running short of crude import quotas, the refinery has been processing more domestic crudes, which has helped the plant sustain such high run rate.
However, the 20 million mt/year Zhejiang Petroleum & Chemical’s average utilization rate for three of its CDUs was about 70% in December, with the third CDU still undergoing trial runs, according to a company source.
This was more than 10 percentage points lower from November’s average utilization rate of around 83%.
This could translate to about 1.78 million mt of crude throughput loss in the month, down 11% from November.
Meanwhile, 45 small-sized private sector refineries in Shandong province lowered their combined average run rate slightly to around 73% as of Dec. 17, from around 76% in November, according to local information provider JLC.
However, domestic refining margins remain healthy and it will support the run rates in the coming weeks, said an analyst at JLC.
STATE-OWNED REFINERS’ SCHEDULED MAINTENANCE, RESTARTS IN 2020/EARLY 2021
• Sinopec’s Qingdao Petrochemical plant has restarted around Dec. 14 from scheduled maintenance that began Oct. 10.
• Sinopec’s Wuhan Petrochemical has restarted from two months of maintenance lasting from October to around Dec. 15.
• Sinopec’s Qilu Petrochemical has restarted its 8 million mt/year CDU and some secondary units from end-November.
• Sinopec’s 21 million mt/year Jinling Petrochemical has shut an 8 million mt/year CDU as well as some secondary units for about 40 days of maintenance since Nov. 18.
• PetroChina’s 13 million mt/year Yunnan Petrochemical refinery has been shut from Dec. 5 for around 50-days maintenance to last till end-January.
• CNOOC’s Huizhou Petrochemical will shut for maintenance over February-April 2021.
• Sinopec’s Changling Petrochemical will shut for maintenance from around Feb. 19, 2021, to last for about 55 days.