Oil market participants and analysts have been closely watching the record level of supply coming out of the United States that is threatening to undo OPEC’s production cuts. But in the latter part of 2017 and early in 2018, robust oil demand growth — both in emerging markets and OECD economies — has supported oil prices as much as the cartel’s production restraint and the weakening U.S. dollar.
Traditionally, all eyes have been fixated on China and the pace of its oil demand and imports growth, but lately India has grabbed global attention after its oil imports rose to record highs amid strong economic growth and fuel demand. Projections of India’s long-term energy and oil consumption are also optimistic, and India is already a major oil demand growth driver.
In China, January crude oil imports jumped to a new record of 9.57 million bpd, but forecasts of slower GDP growth are making analysts wary of overly optimistic projections. China’s crude oil demand growth could slow down this year to 4.2 percent from 5.5 percent last year, according to S&P Platts analysts.
In India, high refinery runs and expanding refining capacity amid a strong recovery in demand pushed crude oil imports to a record 4.93 million bpd in January 2018, up by double digits compared to both December 2017 and January 2017, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters Oil Research & Forecasts.
Although the January imports figure may have a seasonal explanation, with spring refinery maintenance approaching, longer-term projections and Indian refinery expansion plans support the view that oil demand growth will be strong. India plans to boost its crude oil refining capacity by 77 percent by 2030 to meet its growing fuel demand.
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