February 25, 2024

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China’s oil imports from Russia may rise to a record high, overtaking Saudi Arabia’s largest oil supplier

China's oil imports from Russia may rise to a record high, overtaking Saudi Arabia's largest oil supplier
  • Russia overtakes Saudi Arabia as the largest supplier after a gap of 19 months
  • Russia imports nearly two million barrels per day in May
  • Imports from Malaysia doubled in May
  • Customs announces the third Iranian shipment since last December

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – China’s imports of crude oil from Russia jumped 55 percent from a year earlier to a record level in May, replacing Saudi Arabia as the largest supplier, as refiners benefited from reduced supplies amid sanctions against Moscow over its invasion. Ukraine.

Total Russian oil imports, including supplies pumped through the East Siberia-Pacific pipeline and seaborne shipments from Russia’s ports in Europe and the Far East, amounted to nearly 8.42 million tons, according to data from China’s General Administration of Customs.

That equates to about 1.98 million bpd and up a quarter from 1.59 million bpd in April.

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The data, which shows that Russia has realigned major suppliers to the world’s largest importer of crude oil after a gap of 19 months, suggests that Moscow is able to find buyers for its oil despite Western sanctions, despite having to cut prices. .

As overall demand for crude oil in China waned due to COVID-19 restrictions and a slowing economy, leading importers, including refining giant Sinopec and trader Zhenhua Oil, ramped up purchases of cheaper Russian oil as well as sanctioned supplies from Iran and Venezuela that allow . them to reduce competing supplies from West Africa and Brazil. Read more

Saudi Arabia came in as the second largest supplier, with May volumes rising 9% year-on-year at 7.82 million tons, or 1.84 million barrels per day. This is down from 2.17 million bpd in April.

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Customs data released on Monday also showed that China imported 260,000 tons of Iranian crude oil last month, in the third shipment of Iranian oil since last December, confirming a Reuters report earlier.

Despite US sanctions on Iran, China has continued to obtain Iranian oil, which is usually passed on as supplies from other countries. Import levels are roughly equivalent to 7% of China’s total crude oil imports. Read more

Oil and gas tanks at an oil depot in the port of Zhuhai, China, October 22, 2018. (Reuters) / Ali Song

China’s total imports of crude oil rose by about 12 percent in May from a low base the previous year to 10.8 million barrels per day, compared to the 2021 average of 10.3 million barrels per day. Read more

Customs reported no imports from Venezuela. State oil companies have avoided purchases since late 2019 for fear of secondary US sanctions.

Imports from Malaysia, often used as a transfer point in the past two years for oil from Iran and Venezuela, were 2.2 million tons, flat against April but more than double the level of the previous year.

Imports from Brazil fell 19% from the previous year to 2.2 million tons, as supplies from the Latin American source faced cheaper competition from Iranian and Russian barrels.

Separately, the data also showed that China’s imports of Russian LNG amounted to nearly 400,000 tons last month, up 56% from May 2021.

In the first five months, Russian LNG imports — mostly from the Sakhalin-2 project in the Far East and Yamal LNG in the Russian Arctic — rose 22% year-on-year to 1.84 million tons, according to customs data.

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Below is a detailed breakdown of oil imports, in quantities in million tons:

(tons = 7.3 barrels to convert crude oil)

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(Reporting by the Chin Aizhou and Beijing editorial room. Editing by Tom Hogg and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.