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The rise of China's teapot refineries

Armed with import permits, the country’s private refineries are mopping up cheap global crude oil

CHINA’s small independent refiners are driving the country’s oil imports higher this year – a trend that started in 2015 when Beijing lifted restrictions barring private firms from importing oil directly. No wonder international crude suppliers are scrambling to court the independents: they could account for as much as one-fifth of China’s oil imports this year. Increased buying by the smaller processors, known as teapots, overwhelmed the port of Qingdao in Shandong province – home to most of them – in April with unprecedented tanker traffic. Crude imports to the province hit a record of 2.3m barrels a day in March, up a massive 1.1m b/d compared with a year earlier, even though China’s ove

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