China's crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia rose to 1.17 million barrels per day (bpd) in November, the second highest rate on record, as the world's top oil exporter boosted its output to above 10 million bpd.
November imports into China, the world's No.2 crude buyer, were 32.3 percent higher than a year earlier and 100,000 bpd above the 1.07 million bpd in October, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
Though the Chinese November data reflected mostly cargoes lifted in October, it echoed Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi's comment earlier this month that the Kingdom had raised output to over 10 million bpd in response to demand from "all over".
China's 100,000 bpd increase in November imports accounted for around 17 percent of the additional Saudi oil production.
China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, has imported 995,033 bpd of crude oil from Saudi Arabia in the first 11 months of this year, up 13 percent year on year, the customs data showed.
The increased Saudi supply came as China raised its refinery production to an all-time high in November, and as China also started pumping oil into new reserve tanks, while crude oil production at home fell due to an offshore oil spill.
"China's crude oil imports picked up sharply on the month as we expected, in line with higher demand from refiners that were ramping up after a very heavy turnaround period," said Soozhana Choi, head of commodities research in Asia for Deutsche Bank.
China's refinery throughput surged to a record high of 9.22 million bpd in November, after a small decline in October, as state oil firms revved up operations to ease a domestic diesel shortage.
"We're likely to see sustained crude oil imports in December and into the early part of next year driven by higher refinery runs and potentially driven by some level of additions to operational and strategic inventories," Choi said.
China has started pumping oil into new reserve tanks in its landlocked northwest since September, in a move that may have swelled the country's crude imports to a peak in November and is likely to bolster its imports in December.
An estimated 17 million barrels of crude oil, or a daily rate of around 190,000 barrels, have flowed into both commercial and strategic tanks recently completed in the remote Xinjiang region and Gansu province, industry sources told Reuters.
In November, China's crude imports from Russia jumped 76 percent from a year earlier to 1.87 million tons, or 456,160 bpd, the customs data showed.
China also resumed last month crude imports from Libya, with purchases of about 38,000 bpd, after a halt between May and October due to a civil war in the north African state.
Imports from Iran, China's third-largest supplier, were at 2.55 million tons, or 620,000 bpd, last month, and imports in the January-November period gained nearly 30 percent at about 553,000 bpd.