According to China’s General Customs Administration, imports of Russian oil, including deliveries via the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline and shipping from European and Far Eastern ports of Russia, amounted to almost 8.42 million tons.
This is equivalent to about 1.98 million barrels per day (bpd) and a quarter more than 1.59 million bpd in April.
And while overall demand for crude oil in China has been dampened by Covid-19 restrictions and a slowdown in the economy, top importers, including refinery giant Sinopec and trader Zhenhua Oil, have stepped up buying cheaper Russian crude in addition to sanctioned supplies. from Iran and Venezuela, allowing them to cut back on competing supplies from West Africa and Brazil.
Saudi Arabia became the second largest supplier: volumes in May increased by 9% compared to the same period last year and amounted to 7.82 million tons or 1.84 million barrels per day. This is below the April figure of 2.17 million bpd.
Customs data released on Monday also showed China imported 260,000 tons of Iranian crude oil last month, the third shipment of Iranian oil since December last year, confirming an earlier Reuters report.
China’s total crude oil imports rose almost 12% in May from a low base a year earlier to 10.8 million bpd, compared with a 2021 average of 10.3 million bpd.
Customs reported no imports from Venezuela. State oil companies have refrained from buying since late 2019 for fear of secondary US sanctions.
Imports from Malaysia, which has often been used as a transit point for oil from Iran and Venezuela over the past two years, totaled 2.2 million tons, stable compared to April but more than double last year’s level.
Imports from Brazil fell 19% year-over-year to 2.2 million tons as the Latin American exporter’s shipments faced cheaper competition from Iranian and Russian barrels.
Separately, the data also showed that China’s imports of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) totaled almost 400,000 tons last month, up 56% from May 2021.
In the first five months, imports of Russian LNG — mainly from the Sakhalin-2 project in the Far East and Yamal LNG in the Russian Arctic — rose 22% year-over-year to 1.84 million tons, according to customs data. .