July 13, 2020 [Oil Price.com] – When the bottom fell out of international crude oil markets earlier this year, global oil storage was at a premium.
In the United States, finding sufficient crude oil storage became such a challenge that the West Texas Intermediate crude benchmark plummeted below zero on April 20, ending the day at -$37.63 per barrel, meaning that you would essentially be paid $40 to take a barrel of oil off of someone’s hands.
China, however, soon busied itself stocking up on cheap oil, to the extent that Beijing played a key role in the global oil market’s recovery by helping to buy off a significant portion of the world’s severe oil glut. This is not to say that China’s government was alone in taking advantage of historically low oil prices or buying up oil in an attempt to salvage their own struggling energy sector.
Back in March, the United States government pledged to support domestic oil producers by buying 30 million barrels of oil for the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. “But analysts said that China’s stockpiling dwarfs what other nations have done in response to cheap prices,” writes CNN. Matt Smith, director of commodity strategy at ClipperData, told CNN’s reporters that “China is the only country that has been buying like crazy. They went out and bought the dip.”
In fact, China went out and snapped up cheap crude at such a breakneck place that they now have their own critical oil storage issue. International news has been reporting for weeks on China’s jam-packed waterways filling up with crude tankers.
On July 1 CNN reported that “China bought so much foreign oil at dirt-cheap prices this spring that a massive traffic jam of tankers has formed at sea waiting to offload crude” as the country’s purchases begin to arrive. “China’s so-called floating storage — defined as barrels of oil on vessels waiting for seven days or longer — has nearly quadrupled since the end of May, according to ClipperData.
Not only is that the most on record going back to early 2015, it’s up seven-fold from the monthly average during the first quarter of 2020.”