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China’s imports of Russian oil, near record high in March

- Moldova Invest


China’s imports of Russian oil, near record high in March

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Russia remained China’s top supplier throughout 2023. Russian rafineries took shipments of Sokol oil, affected by Western sanctions, Reuters reports. China’s oil imports from Russia, including pipeline deliveries and maritime transport, rose 12.5% annually to 10.81 million tons, or 2.55 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, according to Customs Administration data.

The amount is close to the previous monthly record of 2.56 million bpd, reached in June 2023. Seven sanctioned Russian tankers unloaded Sokol oil at Chinese ports in March as Russia struggled to dispose of failed deliveries due to tightened U.S. sanctions.

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More than 10 million barrels of oil supplied by Sakhalin-1, a unit of Rosneft, remained in storage in the past three months amid payment difficulties and sanctions on shipping firms and vessels carrying oil. Chinese state-owned CNOOC’s storage of Russian oil in strategic reserves also boosted imports from Russia. Kpler consultancy data estimates that maritime shipments from Russia will hit a record 1.82 million bpd, including 440,000 bpd of Sokol oil and 967,000 bpd of ESPO.

Russia was China’s top supplier throughout 2023, delivering 2.14 million bpd, despite Western sanctions and the introduction of a price cap after the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. In coordination with other OPEC+ members, Russia opted for a voluntary 300,000 bpd oil production cut in the first quarter of the year to support energy prices. Chinese imports from Saudi Arabia, previously China’s largest supplier, totaled 6.3 million tons in March, or 1.48 million bpd, down 29.3% from the same period last year. Riyadh said it would extend its voluntary 1 million bpd production cut until the end of June, leaving production at around 9 million bpd.

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The world’s largest oil exporter maintained its official March selling price for its flagship Arab Light crude to Asia at $1.50 above the Oman/Dubai average, as the Kingdom sought to secure market share. Imports from Malaysia, a transshipment point for sanctioned goods from Iran and Venezuela, rose 39.2% to 13.7 million tons, or 3.23 million bpd, in the January-March period. Data showed 375,296 tons of oil imported from Venezuela following a rare shipment of 352,455 tons of Venezuelan oil in February, amid a temporary relaxation of U.S. sanctions on Caracas. Sanctions were reimposed on Thursday after the U.S. said President Nicolas Maduro had failed to fulfill electoral commitments.

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