China: Crude Throughput Is Strong But Drops In March

Credit: alexander-schimmeck-unsplash
  • Maintenance season falls in March-June
  • Throughput cut, negative margin to reduce March product exports
  • Guangdong starts up, Shenghong runs at full capacity in February

Crude throughput hits high in Feb, to fall amid maintenance in March, says a Platts news source.

China is set to cut its crude throughputs

China is set to cut its crude throughputs in Marchfrom the recent highs in February as maintenance season starts, information collected by S&P Global Commodity Insights showed Feb. 28.

As a slew of refineries, totaling 440,000 b/d of capacity are scheduled to shut for turnarounds from mid-March, China may slash its oil product exports, according to market sources.

China may cut its clean oil product exports to as low as 1.5 million mt (385,000 b/d) in March from above 3 million mt in the previous months due to the maintenance season while domestic demand recovers amid reopening coupled with negative export margins, market sources added.

In mid-March, Sinopec’s flagship Zhenhai Refining & Petrochemical will take the lead to shut its 200,000 b/d No. 3 CDU for two-month maintenance. Following, another combined 600,000 b/d CDU capacity under Sinopec will gradually go offline for turnarounds in the first half of 2023, company sources said.

CNOOC will also shut its 240,000 b/d phase 1 refining complex in Huizhou since mid-March, leaving the 200,000 b/d CDU to run, a company source said.

Moreover, six of PetroChina’s refineries in the northeast and northwest China with a combined capacity of 1.01 million b/d will start scheduled maintenance from the second half of April when the weather becomes warmer, company sources said.

State-run refineries lift February runs

Prior to the maintenance, the state-run refiners boosted throughput from January in February with higher utilization amid new capacity online. The month-on-month increase would be more than enough to offset the reduction in independent sector, S&P Global data showed.

Average utilization rate at 24 Sinopec refineries, 21 PetroChina refineriesCNOOC’s Huizhou Petrochemical and Sinochem’s Quanzhou Petrochemical rose further to around 82.5% in February, from 81.7% in January and 80.8% in December.

Of these 47 refineries (10.2 million b/d), 31 refineries have raised their utilization rates by at least one percentage point from January.

Meanwhile, PetroChina’s 400,000 b/d Guangdong Petrochemical has been fully commissioned since Feb. 12, and the new private Shenghong Petrochemical (320,000 b/d) is running at its full capacity from 67%-68% in December-January .

CNOOC’s 440,000 b/d Huizhou Petrochemical further kicked its run rates to around 99% of its nameplate capacity ahead of the maintenance, from 97% in January and 96% in December.

Asia’s biggest refiner Sinopec also raised its average run rates for a second straight month to 85.9% in February, from 84.3% in January.

Out of the 24 covered Sinopec refineries, 20 refineries have raised throughputs in February, thanks to the demand recovery in the domestic oil product market, S&P Global data showed.

PetroChina’s average utilization rose to 76.2% in February from 75.2% in the previous month.

This came as S&P Global started to take the new Guangdong Petrochemical in to account PetroChina’s average utilization in February. The complex runs at about 72% of its nameplate capacity for the month, pulling down PetroChina’s average utilization but boosting the giant’s overall crude throughputs.

But Sinochem cut utilization at its 300,000 b/d Quanzhou Petrochemical by about 10 percentage points to 90% in February, due to slower runs at its 60,000 b/d CDU.

ZPC, Hengli cut run rates

In the independent refining sector, both the 800,000 b/d Zhejiang Petroleum & Chemical and the 400,000 b/d Hengli Petrochemical (Dalian) have lowered their respective run rates in February.

ZPC’s utilization declined 9 percentage points to around 90% in February amid maintenance at some downstream units, while Hengli also cut its run rates to around 82% from 94% in January, according to market sources.

Small-scaled independent refineries in Shandong, however, continued to lift their run rates to 67.8% in February, from 67% in January, due to improving refining margins, data from local energy information provider JLC showed.

Their utilizations are likely to fall in March as some of them will be shut for scheduled maintenance, according to JLC.

State-owned refineries maintenance schedule:

Sinopec’s 540,000 b/d Zhenhai Refining & Petrochemical plant to start maintenance at its 200,000 b/d CDU in mid-March, to last until early May.

CNOOC’s 440,000 b/d Huizhou Petrochemical plant will shut its Phase I refining complex with a capacity of 12 million mt/year for maintenance from mid-March.

Sinopec’s 200,000 b/d Luoyang Refining & Petrochemical plant to start an overall maintenance from mid-April, until end May.

Sinopec’s 240,000 b/d Qingdao Refining & Petrochemical plant to start full maintenance from end May, to last until mid-July.

Sinopec’s 420,000 b/d Jinling Petrochemical plant to shut its No.3 160,000 b/d CDU for maintenance over mid-June until end July.

PetroChina’s 210,000 b/d Lanzhou Petrochemical plant to start full maintenance over April-May.

PetroChina’s 180,000 b/d Liaoyang Petrochemical plant to shut for maintenance over April 10-May 26.

PetroChina’s 100,000 b/d Changqing Petrochemical plant to shut for overall maintenance over early April, to last until end May.

PetroChina’s 100,000 b/d Harbin Petrochemical plant to shut for overall turnaround over early May and will last until end June.

PetroChina’s 240,000 b/d Urumqi Petrochemical plant to start an overall maintenance during April 20-June 15.

PetroChina’s 200,000 b/d Daqing Petrochemical plant to start an overall maintenance during mid-June to end July.

Average run rates at China’s top refiners in Feb 2023:


State-run Feb-2023 Jan-2023 Feb-2022 Jan-Feb 2023 Jan-Feb 2022
PetroChina 76.2% 75.2% 74.4% 73.6% 74.1%
Sinopec 85.9% 84.3% 88.3% 80.6% 85.1%
CNOOC 99.0% 96.9% 89.2% 88.9% 90.8%
Sinochem 90.4% 100.5% 91.2% 82.3% 89.7%
Subtotal average 82.5% 81.7% 82.9% 78.3% 81.4%


Independent Feb-2023 Jan-2023 Feb-2022 Jan-Feb 2023 Jan-Feb 2022
Hengli 82.4% 94.2% 103.0% 82.0% 102.0%
ZPC 90.1% 99.5% 88.0% 95.0% 88.0%
Shenghong 99.3% 68.4% 84.7%
Shandong independents 67.8% 67.4% 65.9% 68.8% 67.8%


Source: S&P Global Commodity Insights, JLC

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Source: Platts


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