Saudi Arabia remained China’s single largest crude oil supplier in June, ahead of Russia, although Saudi shipments to the world’s top oil importer fell by 19 percent last month amid lower overall imports, according to official Chinese customs data cited by Reuters.
In June 2021, China imported 1.75 million barrels per day (bpd) of Saudi crude oil, China’s General Administration of Customs said on Tuesday. This volume was higher than the 1.62 million bpd crude oil imports from Russia, keeping the Kingdom ahead of Russia as China’s top oil supplier for an eight month running, according to the data quoted by Reuters.
The customs data in China showed local refiners didn’t import any crude from either Iran or Venezuela, the two OPEC members under U.S. sanctions that restrict their oil exports.
Unofficially, however, China continues to import oil from Iran, often disguised as coming from other countries, including from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to previous Reuters reports.
China has put the brakes on overall crude oil imports in recent months, due to rising oil prices and a government crackdown on operations of some independent refiners.
China’s crude oil imports fell to around 9.77 million bpd in June, down by 2 percent on May and the lowest monthly level since the start of the year, customs data cited by Reuters showed last week.
Over the first half of the year, China imported 260.66 million tons of crude, or 10.51 million bpd per Reuters estimates. This was a 3 percent drop compared to the first half of 2020. The first-half figure was boosted by increased imports by independent refiners.
Since the first quarter, however, Beijing has begun cracking down on the teapots, as production of fuels both at independent refiners and state-owned majors was rising faster than demand, undermining refining margins and creating a glut.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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The reason China is buying less Saudi crude oil isn’t because it is slamming brakes on oil imports but because it is buying increasing volumes of Iranian crude at 25% discount. Moreover, China’s custom data deliberately don’t declare imports from Iran and Venezuela so as not to invite more sanctions on them.
The proof is that the United States is considering choking off Iran’s oil sales to China by targeting shipping networks that help export an estimated one million barrels a day (mbd) of Iranian crude as reported by the WSJ.
However, this is easy said than done. China who never stopped buying Iranian crude despite US sanctions will use its own tankers to bring discounted Iranian crude shipments to Chinese ports. Is the United States going to intercept them? I don’t think so. Is it going to sanction shipping Chinese companies? China doesn’t care less. Furthermore, it will retaliate.
Alternatively, Iranian tankers could carry the oil to China. If The United States tries to intercept them, Iran would block the Strait of Hormuze encouraged by the fact that it could continue to export its oil via its Goreh-Jask oil pipeline that bypasses the Strait altogether.
Without the United States agreeing first to lift the sanctions, Iran won’t even negotiate with the Biden administration. On the other hand, the United States won’t lift the sanctions without Iran accepting limitations on its nuclear and ballistic missile development programmes which Iran will never do and therein lies the problem.
A lifting of US sanctions won’t see the light of day even by 2023 or ever. The reason is that the positions of the United States and Iran are irreconcilable.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
With prices this high and all be paid in US Dollars everyone is getting product that...well, at least not straight up just given away by Russia at the moment...is all being supplied by Australia and not the insane Middle East.
With China not even wanting the Aussie product!
So I say again "long $tsla Tesla Motors