China reserve bureau working on crude oil release

China’s state reserve bureau said on Thursday it is working on a release of crude oil reserves although it declined to comment on a U.S. request to the world’s top consuming nations to tap stockpiles to ease global energy prices.

The National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration told Reuters when asked to comment on the U.S. request that it would disclose the details of the move on its website.

“We are carrying out the work of releasing crude oil reserves. And for any details related to the releasing, we will put out a statement on our website,” a reserve bureau spokeswoman said.

China, the world’s biggest oil importer, rolled out its first public auction of state crude oil reserves to a select group of domestic refiners in September, aiming to stabilise energy prices.

The release involved around 7.38 million barrels of crude oil, mostly from the Middle East.

Beijing also said earlier this month it would tap its state fuel reserves to tame the soaring diesel and gasoline prices.

“China has its own plan for the strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) releases. (We expect) the second release volume should be similar to the first one,” said Sengyick Tee, analyst at Beijing-based consultancy SIA Energy.

Tee also said the volume was too small to have any impact on China’s stockpiles or refinery costs.

Benchmark Brent oil prices have gained as much as 69% this year. It retreated 0.4% to $79.97 per barrel on Thursday.

U.S. light sweet crude oil prices dropped 0.8% and touched its lowest level in a month.

China keeps its strategic reserve level a secret. The last public update was in 2019 when the National Energy Administration disclosed the country had oil inventories, including state reserves and stocks at oil firms and commercial tanks, to last 80 days.

Consultancy Energy Aspects earlier this year estimated that China’s state oil reserves hold about 220 million barrels of crude oil, equivalent to 15 days of demand.