Surging products exports and declining domestic fields are driving an imports boom.

Forget Iran, shale and Opec. The real action in the oil market is happening on the other side of the globe.

China overtook the U.S. as the world’s largest oil importer last year, and for 2018, it’s hoping to beat that achievement. April imports of 39.46 million metric tons reported late Tuesday came off the back of a string of blockbuster months. Until the start of this year, China had never imported much more than 37 million tons in any single month. So far in 2018, only February, shortened by the Lunar New Year holiday, failed to exceed that amount.

It wasn’t meant to be like this.

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the International Energy Agency expect China’s demand growth to start slowing toward an annual pace of 300,000 additional barrels a day over the next few years as the nation switches from its headlong pace of industrialization and the rise of electric vehicles crimps gasoline demand.

Opec revised its numbers upward for 2017, and the same may happen this year. The 5.1-million-ton increase in China’s April crude imports compared to a year earlier on its own represents growth of about 1.2 million barrels a day. (By David Fickling, BloombergOpinion)

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