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China to raise commercial oil storage more than 10% in 2015: sources

Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 17:45
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Storage companies in China are set to boost commercial oil tank capacity by more than a tenth this year, just in time to cash in on speculative demand to stock up on cheap crude, a survey of storage and trading executives shows.

[BEIJING] Storage companies in China are set to boost commercial oil tank capacity by more than a tenth this year, just in time to cash in on speculative demand to stock up on cheap crude, a survey of storage and trading executives shows.

The volume of at least 42 million barrels of crude represents about one week of China's net crude oil imports, and purchases to fill the tanks could offer support global oil prices that have more than halved since last summer to drop below US$50 a barrel as Saudi-led OPEC faces off with US shale producers.

Traders and producers are seeking to stash crude to sell months down the line on expectations that prices will possibly recover towards late 2015. Up to 30 tankers have been booked for such a purpose, Reuters has reported.

Storage operators looking to meet this demand include Dutch tank and terminal specialist Vopak, Hong Kong-listed Brightoil Petroleum and little-known private companies CEFC China Energy and Zhejiang Tianlu Energy Group.

Vopak, building an 8.8-million-barrel base in Yangpu on the southern island province of Hainan, is already getting enquiries for the lease of storage space due to be ready around April, said sources with direct knowledge of the discussions.

"In this market, all those with tanks are smiling," said Cui Zhenchu, Shanghai-based head of oil trading at CEFC China Energy, which is building an 18-million-barrel tank farm, also at Yangpu on Hainan island.

Most of the storage space is being added by independent companies that have only recently been allowed to operate crude oil storage facilities in China. The sector has long been controlled by state giants Sinopec Corp and PetroChina Corp, but Beijing now intends to draw more investors to boost the supply cushion as its import dependence surges.

The projects are in addition to the government's strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) plans calling for China to expand its emergency crude reserves to 90 days of net imports from the currently estimated 30 days. "While SPR is totally taboo for foreign investors, they and (Chinese) private firms can (now) play a part in commercial storage," said Wu Kang, head of Asia operations for consultancy Facts Global Energy.

The Tianlu energy group, operating in the Zhoushan islands off eastern Zhejiang province, plans to add a terminal and another 3.5 million barrels of crude storage near its existing 17-million-barrel storage site.

"Oil prices have not touched bottom yet, (because) the war between US shale and Opec will last for a while," said a Tianlu official. "That is why we're rushing to add more tanks by the end of this year."

REUTERS

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