BEIJING — Saudi Arabia regained the spot
as China’s top crude supplier in the first two months of 2022,
having been leapfrogged by Russia in December, while Russian
shipments dropped 9% as a cut in import quotas led independent
refiners to scale back purchases.
Arrivals of Saudi crude totalled 14.61 million tonnes in
January-February, equivalent to 1.81 million barrels per day
(bpd), down from 1.86 million bpd a year earlier, data from the
General Administration of Customs showed on Sunday.
Imports from Russia totalled 12.67 million tonnes in the two
months, or 1.57 million bpd. That compares to 1.72 million bpd
in the corresponding 2021 period.
Demand for Russia’s flagship ESPO crude from Chinese
independent refineries, known as teapots, was hit by Beijing’s
crackdown on tax evasion and illegal trading of import quotas.
The government also cut its first batch of 2022 crude import
allowances to teapots, aiming to eliminate inefficient refining
Imports from Russia could tumble in March as buyers
worldwide shun its cargoes in the wake of the intensifying
Ukraine crisis. But Reuters reported that Russian producer
Surgutneftegaz was working with China to bypass Western
sanctions and keep up oil sales.
Sunday’s customs data showed that 259,937 tonnes of Iranian
crude oil arrived in China in January, around the same level as
in December 2021, the first imports recorded by official Chinese
data since December 2020.
The shipments came as Tehran and Western nations hold talks
on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal, pointing to a possible lifting
of US sanctions on Iranian oil exports.
No Iranian cargo were recorded by Chinese customs in
China’s official data also showed no imports from Venezuela,
which is under US sanctions as well, in January and February.
Here is the detailed breakdown of trade, with volumes in
Country Jan-Feb y/y pct
Saudi Arabia 14,607,870 -3
Russia 12,667,252 -9.1
Iraq 10,019,027 -0.4
Oman 8,939,072 14.4
Kuwait 6,323,727 50.2
Angola 6,087,055 -9.7
United Arab Emirates 5,906,030 12.7
Brazil 4,295,928 -12
Malaysia 2,162,063 -12.4
United States 1,866,176 -45
Iran 259,937 N/A
(Reporting by Muyu Xu and Dominique Patton
Editing by Mark Potter)