China Base Oil Imports Dipped in 2023

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China Base Oil Imports Dipped in 2023
A view of Hainan Handi Sunshine Petrochemical's refinery, which has a base oil plant, in the Yangpu Economic Development Zone in China. Photo courtesy of Hainan Handi Sunshine Petrochemical

China base oil imports fell 2% in 2023 – a slowdown in the country’s decreasing reliance on foreign oils.

As reported by industry news website Sinolub, the country imported 1.8 million metric tons of base oils last year, according to China’s General Administration of Customs. That accounts for 21% of quantity of base oil consumed in the country last year, Sinolub reported – down from 36% in 2019.

China has long been one of the world’s biggest base oil importers, but domestic base oil production capacity surged during the 2010s, rising from 4.6 million t/y in 2010 to 14 million t/y in 2021, according to Lubes’n’Greases Base Stock Plant Data, moving the country to the top of global rankings for base oil supply base.

China’s base oil production capacity now significantly exceeds the needs of the domestic lubricant industry, but it still imported large quantities, and many local base oil plants operated far below capacity. But local producers do appear to be making inroads.

Some Chinese analysts predict the country’s reliance on imported base oils will continue to shrink in coming years.

Data from the customs agency showed South Korea, Singapore and Qatar to be the largest countries of origin for Chinese base oil imports. Thirty-eight percent originated from South Korea, while 25% and 17% came from Singapore and Qatar, respectively.

South Korean refiners S-Oil, SK Enmove and GS-Caltex were among the largest sources of Chinese imports, along with ExxonMobil, Shell and Formosa Petrochemical.

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