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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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Huge Volumes Of Crude Oil Are Headed To China

  • There were as many as 125 supertankers heading to China at the end of April, the largest volume of oil China has imported in more than two years.
  • The supertankers have the capacity to ship 250 million barrels of oil, suggesting China’s imports are climbing after a decline in April.
  • Weaker-than-expected economic data from China has weighed on oil prices this weak, but the country’s oil demand appears to be healthy.

As many as 125 supertankers were traveling to China at the end of April, carrying the biggest volumes of oil to the world’s top crude buyer in more than two years, according to tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

Those supertankers have the total capacity to ship 250 million barrels of crude oil to China, as signs suggest that Chinese imports in May and June could be higher than an estimated monthly decline in April.

Crude cargo loadings on tankers bound for China in April were high from the Far East ports in Russia, the U.S. Gulf Coast, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the data compiled by Bloomberg showed.

Weaker-than-expected Chinese economic data and an estimated fall in April crude oil imports compared to March have had the oil market concerned that China’s rebound in crude purchases may not be as high as many had expected earlier this year.

China’s imports of crude oil surged by 22.5% year-over-year in March to the highest monthly volumes in nearly three years, official data showed in the middle of April, as refiners increase fuel output to meet expected rising demand after the reopening. The import volumes in tons equal 12.3 million barrels per day (bpd)—the highest for any month since June 2020, and much higher than the 10.1 million bpd of crude oil imports in March 2022. 

But Chinese imports are estimated to have slipped in April to less than 11 million bpd, down from the 12.3 million bpd in March.

The Chinese government, however, is set to issue a second batch of fuel export quotas to its large state refiners and big private refiners. Although expectations are that the total quotas in the second batch would be significantly lower than in the first batch of 2023, China could issue the new batch earlier than in June. Last year, the second batch of export quotas were announced in June.   

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com


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  • Mamdouh Salameh on May 04 2023 said:
    In March 2023 China broke all previous crude oil import records when its crude imports hit 12.30 million barrels a day (mbd). The news that 125 supertankers carrying an estimated 250 million barrels are on their way to China is a strong repudiation of claims of weaker-than-expected Chinese economic data based on a small fall in crude imports in April compared to March.

    It was an undisguised and unsuccessful attempt to make China share part of the blame for the recent plunge in oil prices with the recent collapse of three US commercial banks raising fears of global banking or financial crisis.

    The blame for the plunge in oil prices should be laid fairly and squarely at the door of a lax US banking system exactly as was the case with the 2008 subprime banking and financial crisis.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert
  • Richard Hackett on May 04 2023 said:
    It's hard to understand these Chinese export quotas except as a strategy China has devised to act as a 'swing consumer' to counter the influences others (Saudi, Russia, USA) have as 'swing producers' and therefore to keep oil prices moderated. Partly because they turned it off during Covid, therefore it looks like a strategy.

    In this strategic context, storage of crude and of distillate onshore and offshore under Chinese control would be relevant too.

    But is this just overthinking it all... Is there a better explanation for, first, the large refinery buildout and now for the rising export quotas?

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