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Rising refinery capacity, strategic inventory filling, and flat domestic production resulted in China importing record volumes of crude oil last year, an average of 10.1 million bpd, up by 900,000 bpd from the 2018 average, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in an analysis on Monday.
China continues to be the world’s largest importer of crude oil after surpassing the United States in 2017.
This year, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted Chinese fuel consumption and has upended previous estimates about Chinese crude oil imports, refinery operations, and domestic consumption.
“The economic and transportation effects from this outbreak are still developing and will likely affect China’s crude oil imports, refinery runs, and domestic consumption through the second quarter of 2020,” the EIA said today.
Last year, the majority of Chinese crude oil imports, or 55 percent, came from OPEC, the EIA analysis based on the China General Administration of Customs and Bloomberg showed.
Although OPEC’s top producer and the world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, boosted its crude oil exports to the world’s largest oil importer China in 2019, the overall share of OPEC in Chinese imports slumped to its lowest level since at least 2005, according to the EIA. The reason for the lower Chinese imports from OPEC was not only the OPEC+ pact, but also the U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, whose sales in China have drastically dropped.
Saudi Arabia was the single largest oil supplier to China last year, with 16 percent of all Chinese imports, followed closely by Russia with a 15-percent share, EIA’s data showed. Russia was also the largest non-OPEC supplier to China in 2019, followed by Brazil which overtook Oman as the second-biggest non-OPEC supplier. China’s crude oil imports from the United States fell in 2019, due to the trade spat and the Chinese tariffs on U.S. goods, including crude oil.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.