As China imported its highest-ever volume of crude oil in May, its imports from the world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, nearly doubled to the highest on record after fuel demand in the world’s top oil importer recovered and refiners purchased crude at bargain prices in April.
Chinese imports of crude oil from OPEC’s largest producer, Saudi Arabia, surged by 94.9 percent on the year and by 71 percent on the month in May, to reach 2.16 million barrels per day (bpd), according to data from China’s General Administration of Customs reported by Reuters.
Saudi Arabia beat Russia for the spot of China’s top oil supplier last month, with Russian shipments to China at 1.82 million bpd, up by 21.3 percent from May 2019.
Year to date in May, Chinese imports of crude from Saudi Arabia jumped by 20.8 percent, while imports from Russia rose by 17.8 percent.
Total crude oil imports into China surged to an all-time high of 11.34 million bpd in May, preliminary data from the Chinese General Administration of Customs showed earlier this month. China smashed its crude oil imports record as manufacturing activity picked up and lockdowns eased. But refiners also took advantage of the cheapest crude in years in April to snap up cargoes for delivery in the following months.
According to the customs data, China imported in May its first cargo of U.S. crude oil since November 2019, while Refinitiv data shows that a record amount of U.S. oil is set to be delivered to China in July after refiners had bought cheap U.S. oil in April when prices slumped to the low teens.
China didn’t import any oil from Venezuela in May, according to its customs data, while shipments from Iran also plummeted as buyers are steering clear of U.S. sanctions.
Yet, shipping data suggests that China continues to receive crude from Venezuela, mostly through ship-to-ship transfers.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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