China hits 26% of 2020 target for U.S. energy imports under trade deal

 China has accelerated imports of crude oil, propane and liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States since July, but total energy product purchases through October remain far short of targets for 2020 set out in the Phase 1 trade deal with Washington.

Over the first 10 months of 2020, China's purchases of U.S. crude oil, LNG, propane, butane and other energy products totalled $6.61 billion, about 26% of the $25.3 billion target, according to Reuters calculations based on Chinese customs data.

While the gap to the target is unlikely to be bridged by year-end, U.S. and Chinese trade officials reaffirmed their commitment to the deal in August, and China's imports of U.S. energy products have increased sharply the second half of the year.

The $6.61 billion accrued through October marks a five-fold jump from the $1.29 billion amassed by end-June.

Imports of propane, a key component of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) used as fuel for cars, heating and to produce petrochemicals, grew at the fastest pace of all major energy products since July.

Robust demand for chemicals from China's revitalised manufacturing sector, along with new processing units at independent refiners Zhejiang Petroleum & Chemical and Zhejiang Huahong have fuelled the import drive.

LNG demand is also expected to be firm through winter as Beijing continues to replace coal with gas and as the country liberalizes its pipeline network.

Refinitiv trade flows data show China may receive a record 1.26 million cubics metres of U.S. LNG in November.

China's crude oil imports from the U.S. hit a record 12.5 million tonnes through October, worth $3.88 billion, but the pace of U.S. purchases is expected to slow through the remainder of 2020 as top suppliers Saudi Arabia and Russia target increased flows to the top oil importer.

(Reporting by Muyu Xu in Beijing and Gavin Maguire in Singapore, Additional reporting by Seng Li Peng)

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