China has surpassed the United States to become the largest oil refining country in the world in 2022, according to the China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Association. The total refining capacity in China has increased to 920 million tonnes per year or 18.4 million barrels per day (bpd). Meanwhile, according to the International Energy Agency, the United States had a refining capacity of 17.6 million bpd as of December 2022.
Refinery Expansion Driven by State-Run and Private Firms
State-run PetroChina and private firms such as Zhejiang Rongsheng Group and Jiangsu Shenghong Petrochemical have led the recent expansion of refineries in China. This expansion mainly fills the gap in petrochemical supply rather than transportation fuels.
Low Utilization Rates Result in Low Fuel Output
Despite having the largest refining capacity, China's refined products output was only 700 million tonnes (5.1 billion barrels) last year, with an average plant utilization rate of 70%. On the other hand, the United States had a refined product output of more than 800 million tonnes, with an average utilization rate exceeding 90%.
Growing Refining Capacity in China
According to the China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Association, China has 32 refineries with a capacity of at least 200,000 bpd each. The recent launch of a new facility built by PetroChina in Jieyang, Guangdong, is an example of China's growing refining capacity.