Cars refuel at a Sinopec gas station in Qingdao, East China's Shandong province. (Photo provided to China Daily)
China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, China's largest oil refiner, is expected to import 10 million metric tons of crude oil from the United States this year, said the company, also known as Sinopec.
Unipec Singapore Pte Ltd, a trading unit of Sinopec, said it imported 5.57 million tons of crude oil from the U.S. in 2017, 10 percent of the total U.S. crude oil export last year, which also makes the company the biggest U.S. crude oil trader in the Asia-Pacific region and a major player in U.S. crude oil trade.
China is increasingly reliant on crude oil imports as domestic supply is unable to keep pace with demand, mostly driven by rising demand for oil products such as gasoline and jet fuel.
Analysts said that despite the rate of growth, China's oil demand will likely slow over the next few years as China's economic growth slows, and demand for imported oil will continue to rise.
"Demand for imported oil is likely to continue to rise unless we see very significant growth in technologies such as electric motors and electric storage which may be able to replace the need for oil, especially in the transport sector," said Sebastian Lewis, head of content for S&P Global Platts in China.
With advantages in infrastructure layout including warehouse logistics, Sinopec became the first trader to import U.S. crude in the Asia-Pacific region after shipping the first batch of U.S. crude to China in March 2016.
According to Sinopec, more than a dozen refineries under Sinopec are processing U.S. crude oil, all of which have played a positive role in diversifying China's crude imports.
Customs data showed that crude oil imports stood at 420 million tons in 2017, surpassing the U.S. to become the world's largest importer of crude oil.
Despite the fact that U.S. crude supplies still remain a small proportion of Chinese imports, analysts said U.S. crude imports will take up some of the country's growing demand, which will benefit both countries.