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China And India Ensure Asian Oil Demand Remains Robust

Demand for oil in Asia remained robust in March thanks to strong imports by China and India, which offset weakening demand in some other Asian nations.

Asia took in a total 27.6 million barrels of crude daily last month, Reuters’ Clyde Russell reported citing Refinitiv Oil Research data. This was a 4% increase over February.

During the first three months of the year, Asian oil imports beat every month of last year, Russell noted, except for November.

China’s crude oil imports in March hit the highest in four months at 11.65 million bpd, almost 1 million bpd higher than the February average daily. Saudi Arabia was the top supplier of China last month, overtaking Russia.

India, for its part, saw its crude oil imports hit the highest in 11 months in March, at 5.02 million bpd. Russian crude accounted for a third of this total, with deliveries running at record highs for the sixth month in a row.

Despite weaker crude oil and natural gas imports early into the year and just after the Chinese reopening after nearly three years of strict Covid measures, analysts expect China’s oil imports to accelerate later this year and support global oil demand growth. 

Chinese crude oil imports could increase to an average as high as 11.8 million bpd this year, rising by between 500,000 bpd and 1 million bpd, according to Energy Aspects, FGE, S&P Global Commodity Insights, and Wood Mackenzie.

Meanwhile, almost all of Russia’s crude oil exports are heading to China and India, recent data showed. According to energy analytics provider Vortexa, in March Russia shipped 3.38 million bpd of crude to overseas markets, with 91% of that going to the two biggest economies in Asia, Anadolu Agency reported.

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In the rest of Asia, meanwhile, imports of crude oil have mostly declined, suggesting a weakening of demand outside the six biggest importers, which also include South Korea, and Japan.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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