China’s heft in the global crude oil market exerts profound global effects across the energy, environmental, and human well-being dimensions. Yet comprehensive, high-frequency, reliable, and publicly available data on China’s domestic oil flows and inventory movements are essentially inaccessible.
Making high-quality satellite imagery available to the broader global energy research community can help crack open the “Great Wall of Secrecy” and improve data transparency and insights into the inner workings of the world’s second-largest crude oil market.
First and foremost, satellite data showing oil inventory changes would help fill in currently massive gaps in the publicly available data on changes in crude oil storage levels in China.
A simple model suggests that obtaining monthly high-resolution satellite views of China’s key oil storage infrastructure points (refineries and stand-alone crude oil and refined product tank terminals) could cost roughly $4.5 million per year, or about $1.1 million per year if monitoring were done quarterly.