China’s crude oil imports from top supplier Saudi Arabia soared 38 per cent in April from a year earlier, hitting the highest monthly volume since May 2020, according to Reuters’ calculations based on official Chinese customs data.
Saudi shipments amounted to 8.93 million tonnes last month, equivalent to 2.17 million barrels per day (bpd), according to data from the Chinese General Administration of Customs.
The hefty purchases, with trades completed mostly in February, compare with 1.61 million bpd in March and 1.57 million bpd a year earlier.
Imports from second-largest supplier Russia rose a more modest 4 per cent last month from a year earlier, with cargoes booked before western governments toughened sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.
Russian oil arrivals in April totalled 6.55 million tonnes, or 1.59 million bpd, data showed, up slightly from 1.5 million bpd in March and 1.53 million bpd a year earlier.
China’s overall crude oil imports last month rose nearly 7 per cent on the year, its first rise in three months, although widespread COVID-19 lockdowns crimped fuel demand and dampened refinery output.
Friday’s data showed zero imports in April from Iran. However, customs next month is likely to report for May the import of nearly 2 million barrels of Iranian oil that was being discharged this week into a reserve base in south China.
Despite U.S. sanctions on Iran, China has kept taking Iranian oil passed off as supplies from other countries. The import levels are roughly equivalent to 7 per cent of China’s total crude oil imports.
Iranian oil, often priced lower than competing grades, have squeezed out rival supplies such as from Brazil and West Africa.
Customs reported zero imports from Venezuela, as state oil firms shunned purchases since late 2019 for fear of falling afoul of secondary U.S. sanctions.
Imports from Malaysia, often used as a transfer point in the last two years for oil originating from Iran and Venezuela, jumped 84 per cent on year to 2.165 million tonnes, the second highest on record.
Below is the detailed breakdown, with volumes in million tonnes:
Country April y/y Jan-April y/y
per centchange per centchange
Saudi 8.932 30.4 3.5
Russia 6.551 4 25.61 -7
Iraq 4.089 -8 18.85 4
Angola 2.781 -10 11.69 -10
Brazil 2.435 -13 8.79 -25
United 0.748 -19 3.27 -43
Malaysia 2.165 6.23 21
Iran 0 0.26
Venezuela 0 0
Oman 2.975 16 14.98 0.1
UAE 3.096 12.22 21
(tonne = 7.3 barrels for crude oil conversion)