BEIJING (Reuters) - China's natural gas imports in November rose to a record as domestic demand surged while crude imports were the second-highest ever, as refiners ramped up output to cash in on strong profits as fuel prices soar, customs data showed on Friday.
November gas arrivals, including pipeline imports and liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments, hit 6.55 million tonnes, breaking a previous record of 6.1 million tonnes last December, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
Year-to-date gas shipments were 60.7 million tonnes, on track to hit a record.
An aggressive government campaign to heat millions of homes and fuel industrial boilers with gas has pushed domestic LNG prices to record highs, with some industrial and commercial users facing shortages or unable to afford the high cost.
"Record natural gas imports were driven by the jump in liquefied natural gas imports. CNOOC and PetroChina are ramping up purchases on the spot market and increasing the utilization rates of their LNG receiving terminals," said Wang Haohao, gas analyst with Zibo Longzhong Information Group.
State energy firms stepped up imports months ahead of the heating season that started mid-November, with CNOOC, the country's largest LNG importer, employing floating tankers as emergency backup and China National Petroleum Corp on Thursday warning of potential shortages.
Crude oil imports rose to 37.04 million tonnes in November, or 9.01 million barrels per day (bpd), up from 7.3 million bpd the previous month, and the second-highest level in history.
The data comes after the government recently released an additional 1.5 million tonnes in 2017 import quotas to three independent refineries.
Stronger imports have been supported by firm refining margins after China raised domestic fuel prices twice in November.
Year-to-date crude imports rose 12 percent to 385.98 million tonnes or 8.44 million bpd.
(Reporting by Meng Meng and Aizhu Chen; Editing by Richard Pullin and Christian Schmollinger)