(MENAFN - Arab News) China's crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia are likely to rise about 11 percent next year, faster than this year's growth rate, as refiners lift output in anticipation of an economic recovery and an increase in fuel demand, industry officials in Beijing told Reuters.
China, the world's second-largest crude consumer, is expected to buy about 1.17 million barrels per day (bpd) of Saudi oil next year, 120,000 bpd more than this year's contracted amount.
The figures are based on estimates by industry sources with direct knowledge of the supply situation, Reuters reported.
China, which imports about 5.3 million bpd of crude a year, is the Kingdom's third largest customer after the US and Japan. In the year to October, imports from Saudi grew 8.6 percent on the year to 1.06 million bpd, compared to growth of 12.6 percent in 2011.
China sees Saudi Arabia as a strategic partner capable of providing stable supplies, and the state energy companies of both nations are in a 10 billion joint venture to build a 400,000-bpd refinery on the Kingdom's Red Sea coast.
Sinopec Corp, Asia's largest refiner, would take in more than 80 percent of the total Saudi supplies to China. China's No.2 refiner, PetroChina, and Sinochem Corp, will use up the rest, the sources told Reuters.
"Sinopec's imports of Saudi crude have been increasing steadily over the past years and are expected to rise further as Sinopec's refining capacity will rise steadily over the next few years," one Chinese trader told Reuters.
Sinopec is estimated to increase Saudi imports by up to 80,000 bpd, as it adds new refining facilities at two subsidiary plants, a 200,000-bpd unit started in late November at Maoming in south China and a 160,000-bpd unit at Jinling refinery in east China.
Sinopec and Aramco are expected to finalize the 2013 contract soon, traders said.