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China’s Russian Oil Imports Hit Record High, Iran Intake Slumps

China’s oil imports from Russia hit an all-time high in October, further consolidating Russia’s position as China’s top oil supplier, while Chinese imports from Iran dropped last month on uncertainties over the U.S. waivers for Iranian customers.

According to Reuters calculations based on data from China’s General Administration of Customs published on Monday, China imported around 1.73 million bpd of oil from Russia last month, a 58-percent surge compared to October last year, thanks to appetite from the independent refiners rushing to fill up their import quotas for this year.

China’s oil imports from Russia averaged 1.39 million bpd between January and October, up 16.6 percent year on year, Reuters estimates based on the customs data showed.

Iranian oil shipments to China, on the other hand, slumped by 64 percent on the year, to around 247,160 bpd in October, when Iran’s buyers were cutting imports, hoping to get a U.S. waiver to continue importing reduced volumes of Iranian oil at least until May next year. China’s imports from Iran dropped for a third consecutive month in October, before the U.S. granted waivers in November to eight Iranian buyers, including to Tehran’s largest single customer China.  

Iran’s archrival and China’s number-two oil supplier, Saudi Arabia, sent around 1.12 million bpd of oil to China in October, up by 3.4 percent annually.

China’s total crude oil imports in October hit a record-high, beating the previous all-time high set in April this year, according to official Chinese data.

Over the past year, Russia has consolidated its position of China’s biggest oil supplier ahead of number-two Saudi Arabia. Chinese purchases of Russian oil jumped to an all-time high of 1.66 million bpd in September, according to Chinese customs data, while imports from Saudi Arabia averaged 924,552 bpd.

Now the October figures show that Russia and Saudi Arabia increased shipments to China in October, and Russia set a new record high of exports to China—1.73 million bpd.

Russia’s ESPO crude is a top pick among Chinese independent refiners, while state-held PetroChina has significantly raised ESPO imports since a second Russia-China oil pipeline started operations earlier this year.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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