CHINA'S LPG IMPORTS UP 8.5%
PLATTS - 04 Feb 2020 - China's LPG imports rose 8.5% year on year to 20.61 million mt in 2019, General Administration of Customs data released Tuesday showed.
Market participants attributed the rise to increased demand from propane dehydrogenation or PDH plants, especially propane imports, in the year due to two new plant startups and a rise in operating rates amid healthy processing margins.
China imported 14.91 million mt of propane in 2019, up 10.8% or 1.45 million mt from 2018, S&P Global Platts calculations based on the customs data showed.
Zhejiang Satellite Petrochemical in eastern China started up its phase two 450,000 mt/year PDH unit in January 2019, while Dongguan Juzhengyuan Technology in southern Guangdong province started up its 600,000 mt/year PDH plant in late September, Platts reported earlier.
China now has a combined propylene production capacity of 5.66 million mt/year, which can use up to 6.79 million mt/year of propane as feedstock when operating at full capacity, up from 5.52 million mt/year in 2018, Platts calculations showed.
The PDH plants were estimated to have run at an average rate of 83% in 2019, indicating propane consumption of 5.64 million mt, increasing from an average rate of 82% in 2018, implying propane consumption of 4.53 million mt, according to Platts calculations based on run rate data from domestic energy information provider JLC.
The average processing margin of China's PDH plants was estimated at Yuan 1,331/mt in 2019, spurring the rise in operating rates, Platts calculations showed.
Meanwhile, butane imports rose 3.7% on year to 5.56 million mt in 2019, the customs data showed.
Platts calculates China's total LPG imports by adding the propane and butane figures to those categorized as "other LPG" under the HS code 7111990. This is to reflect China's import of liquefied gases more accurately. China's import volumes of "other LPG" are much lower than that of propane and butane, totaling 141,901 mt in 2019, down 17% on year.
The customs department defines "other LPG" as a complex combination of hydrocarbons produced by the distillation of crude oil. Market sources said it could be mixed gas containing many hydrocarbons and that it was mainly imported or exported on trucks.
UAE remained the top supplier of LPG to China at 4.37 million mt in 2019, followed by Qatar and Kuwait at 3.47 million mt and 2.26 million mt, respectively, Platts calculations based on the customs data showed.
DEC LPG IMPORTS UP 26% ON YEAR
China imported 1.82 million mt of LPG in December, up 26% on year, and also up 4.5% from November, the customs data showed.
Traders attributed the month-on-month growth to stronger seasonal demand. The LPG imports in December comprised 1.33 million mt of propane, up 29.2% on year, and 461,331 mt of butane, up 14.6% over the same period, the data showed.
Qatar remained the top LPG supplier to China in December at 344,675 mt, up 23.4% on year but down 12.2% on month, the data showed. It was followed by the UAE and Oman at 342,158 mt and 257,123 mt, respectively.
China's LPG imports:
Top five LPG suppliers:
*Includes other sources
*Total figures have been rounded off
Source: China's General Administration of Customs