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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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China Can’t Get Enough Of This Discounted Oil

Oil terminal China

China is taking advantage of steep discounts for Iranian and Venezuelan crude to increase its imports from the two countries sanctioned by the United States, Bloomberg reports, adding that prices for Iranian and Venezuelan oil are at their lowest since November 2017.

From Iran, China has been importing an average of 446,000 bpd, which is substantially higher than the amount Washington agreed to let it import under the sanction waivers it granted eight large Iranian oil buyers in November. However, the 360,000-bpd allowance does not take into account oil produced by Chinese companies taking part in the development of Iranian oil fields.

As for Venezuela, Chinese oil buyers are not subject to sanctions that Washington imposed on state oil company PDVSA in January, so theoretically, they can continue buying as much Venezuelan crude as they like. However, one of their Indian counterparts, Reliance Industries, has stopped importing Venezuelan crude because of its exposure to the U.S. financial system, just in case. Chinese companies also have exposure to this system.

Last month, Chinese traders and refiners bought some 531,000 bpd of Venezuelan crude, which was 17 percent more than they bought in January and the highest since December 2017.

One analyst from the Shanghai-based unit of commodity research firm ICIS-China told Bloomberg it’s mostly about the price.

“Increased purchases from Venezuela may very likely be due to cost concerns,” Li Li said, adding that state oil buyers in China could resell the cheap crude to independent refiners at a profit.

However, there is also the grade consideration: Venezuela is a large producer of heavy oil and Iran also produces heavy grades. The sanctions have shrunk heavy crude supply and has pushed prices a lot higher than normal, so, said Li, “As heavy oil gets more expensive, China of course wants to secure as much of cheap supplies as possible, especially from those who are friends with China.”

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on March 26 2019 said:
    Being the world’s largest importer of crude oil, it makes economic sense for China to buy its needs of crude oil at the cheapest price possible. With imports amounting to 10.43 million barrels a day (mbd), China saves sizeable sums of money when it buys discounted Iranian and Venezuelan crude.

    Moreover, China doesn’t need permission from the United States to buy Iranian and Venezuelan crude. It will continue buying crude from both countries with or without a sanction waiver.

    China has been buying Iranian crude in increasing volumes before and after the sanction waivers were issued by the United States. China’s crude imports from Iran have exceeded 680,000 barrels a day (b/d). To this volume should also be added the amounts of oil China produces from its investments in Iranian oilfields.

    China has also been buying big volumes of Venezuelan oil estimated at 531,000 b/d. China of course wants to secure as much of cheap supplies as possible, especially from those who are friends with it such as Venezuela and Iran.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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