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China Continues To Buy Record Levels Of Russian Crude

China likely imported another 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of discounted Russian crude oil in June after bringing in around the same amount in May, keeping Russia as its top oil supplier ahead of Saudi Arabia for a second consecutive month.

Russian crude is estimated to have squeezed out some supply from Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East, as well as West Africa, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing data from tanker tracking firms Refinitiv, Vortexa, and Kpler.

While record imports of Russian crude continued from May into June in a relatively lackluster overall Chinese imports because of the COVID policies, supply from Saudi Arabia is tracked at around 1.3 million bpd in June, which would be China's lowest import volumes from the world's top crude exporter in almost two years, according to Refinitiv data cited by Reuters.

Imports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq may have slumped by 40 percent and 30 percent, respectively, in June compared to May, Vortexa and Refinitiv have estimated. Chinese imports of crude from Angola are also set for a slump in June. 

Official Chinese data on crude imports by country is expected to be announced in the second half of this month.

Per the tanker-tracking data, Russia continues to gain market share in China at the expense of Saudi Arabia as Chinese refiners soak up heavily discounted Russian grades.

Related: U.S. Funds Set Sights On Venezuela Oil Investment

In May, China imported a record volume of Russian crude, with arrivals surging by 55 percent to nearly 2 million bpd. This has made Russia the top oil supplier to the world's leading crude importer—putting it ahead of Saudi Arabia for the first time in a year and a half.

China could see some slowdown in Russian oil imports later this year, traders tell Reuters. This could be due to competition from India for cheap Russian oil, rising freight rates, and a rise in refiners' term contracted volumes with Saudi Arabia later this year.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on July 06 2022 said:
    China is currently buying on average 2.0 million barrels a day (mbd) of Russian crude oil. Both China and India now account for 37.5% of all Russian oil exports.

    China’s motivation is Russia’s cheap crude and a deliberate decision to help its closest and most important strategic partner overcome Western sanctions.

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

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