April 25, 2017 / 7:38 AM / in 4 months

Russia elbows Saudi Arabia aside as China's top crude oil supplier in March

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Workers look at a drilling rig at a well pad of the Rosneft-owned Prirazlomnoye oil field outside the West Siberian city of Nefteyugansk, Russia, August 4, 2016.Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - Russia reclaimed its position as China's biggest crude oil supplier in March, customs data showed on Tuesday, displacing Saudi Arabia after two months in second place as Moscow fights to hang on to its slice of the Chinese market.

Russian shipments grew nearly 1 percent to 1.104 million barrels per day (bpd) from the same month a year earlier, as China's private refineries maintained high processing rates and restocked inventories after receiving fresh 2017 import quotas. China's crude imports rose to a record in March, overtaking the United States and shattering expectations.

Saudi shipments were 1.072 million barrels in March, up nearly 15 percent from a year ago, the General Administration of Customs said. For the first three months, Saudi arrivals stood at 1.165 million bpd, making it the top supplier on a quarterly basis.

March's record arrivals came as Saudi Arabia cut April prices of light crude as Europe and the United States ramped out supply to Asia.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to curb its output by about 1.2 million bpd from January to support prices. Non-OPEC producers, including Russia, agreed to cut another 600,000 barrels, but both OPEC and non-OPEC countries continued efforts to keep Asian markets vital for growth well supplied.

March also saw the United States ramp up shipments to 45,057 bpd. A year ago, China did not import U.S. crude.

Imports from Iran meanwhile rose 5.97 percent to 626,200 bpd.

Reporting by Meng Meng and Aizhu Chen; Editing by Tom Hogue and Kenneth Maxwell

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