Who imports more oil to China than Russia?
In the first two months of 2022, Saudi Arabia once again became the largest oil supplier to China. Why is this indicator interesting? China is a huge economy and its imports and exports drive the world market.
In January and February, Saudi Arabia supplied 1.81 million barrels per day (bpd) to China. That is admittedly less than a year ago, when Saudi Arabia shipped 1.86 million bpd. This report was revealed on Sunday by data from the General Administration of Customs.
However, it is not that Russia has completely stopped importing oil to China. Russia is still importing about 1.57 million barrels a day since the beginning of the year. This compares to 1.72 million bpd in the same period last year.
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Why isn’t Russia importing that much?
Demand for Russia’s flagship ESPO crude from Chinese independent refiners, the so-called teapots, has been hit by Beijing’s crackdown on tax evasion and illegal import quota trading.
The government also cut the first batch of 2022 crude import allowances for teapots to eliminate inefficient refining capacity.
Imports from Russia could slump further in March as buyers around the world shun its cost in the wake of the escalating Ukraine crisis. But Reuters reported that Russian producer Surgutneftegaz is working with China to circumvent Western sanctions and keep selling oil.
Is Iran also in the game?
Customs data on Sunday showed 259,937 tonnes of Iranian crude arrived in China in January, about 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 countries hold talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, pointing to the possible lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports.
As of February, Chinese customs authorities did not detect any Iranian cargoes.
Chinese official data also showed no imports in January and February from Venezuela, which is also subject to U.S. sanctions.