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China's crude oil imports in July up nearly 40% year-on-year

SHANGHAI : China's imports of crude oil in the first seven months rose nearly 40 percent from a year ago as the energy-hungry economy expanded at close to double-digit levels, state press reported.

In the seven months to July crude imports rose an annualised 39.5 percent to 70.63 million metric tonnes, the official Xinhua news agency reported Friday, citing figures from the General Administration of Customs.

Crude oil imports rose 39.3 percent year-on-year to 61.02 million tons in the first six months, it said.

The world's second largest oil consumer after the United States has seen oil imports soar as flagging domestic production has failed to keep up with booming economic growth and demand for gasoline in the auto market.

Although domestic crude oil output has been rising slowly this year, with output in July up 4.4 percent year-on-year, the nation's oil reserves are dwindling, the report said.

Daqing oilfield in northern China accounted for around one-third of the nation's oil output in 2002, but production is forecast to fall overall and already cannot keep up with China's energy-hungry factories.

The world's fastest growing economy imported 91 million tonnes of crude oil last year, a 31.3 percent increase over 2002.

It was estimated that crude oil imports would rise to 100 million tonnes this year, but the pace of the Chinese economy, which expanded at an annual rate of 9.7 percent in the first half of this year, forced an upward revision of 10 million tonnes, it said.

A net importer of petroleum products since 1993 and of crude oil since 1996, the country is reliant on overseas producers for one third of its demand.

China currently accounts for about seven percent of world oil demand, but this could double by 2014, analysts say.

And by 2020 it will need to import some 70 percent of its crude oil, or 500 million tonnes.

The International Energy Agency this week raised its forecast for China's oil demand growth this year by half a percentage point to 15 percent on the back of stronger-than-expected residual fuel imports in June.

Demand is expected to increase by 6.34 million barrels per day (bpd) compared with 6.29 million bpd forecast in July. The agency further raised its forecast for growth next year to 6.84 million bpd from an earlier forecast of 6.8 million bpd.

Growth in the second half should fall on a half-yearly comparative basis as the government's macroeconomic tightening measures take effect.

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