China's Iran oil imports plunge as U.S. sanctions bite

BEIJING/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - China’s crude oil imports from Iran sank almost 60% in June from a year earlier, Chinese customs data showed on Saturday, following the end of a waiver on U.S. sanctions at the start of May.

A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, July 25, 2005. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

Crude shipment from Iran were 855,638 tonnes last month, or 208,205 barrels per day (bpd), data from the General Administration of Customs showed. That compared with 254,016 bpd in May.

According to Refinitiv Oil Research assessments, a total of 670,000 tonnes, or about 163,000 bpd, of Iranian crude oil was discharged in June at Tianjin in north China and Jinzhou in the northeast.

Refinitiv Oil Research also showed another 430,000 tonnes of Iranian crude oil was discharged in July at Jinzhou and Huizhou in south China.

All the discharged vessels are operated by National Iranian Tanker Company.

It’s not clear who owns the cargoes nor if any buyer has been arranged. State oil firms have since May stopped taking Iranian crude oil, due to concerns about U.S. sanctions.

Jinzhou, Tianjin and Huizhou are all where Chinese oil firms operate refineries and commercial storage tanks. They are also the sites where China’s government emergency stocks are held.

For the first six months of the year, China’s imports of Iranian crude oil tumbled 30% on a year earlier to 11.03 million tonnes, or 447,327 bpd.

Saudi Arabia overtook Russia to become the country’s top supplier in June with 7.72 million tonnes, or 1.88 million bpd, up 84.1% from a year earlier and compared with 1.11 million bpd in May.

Arrivals from Russia reached 7.15 million tonnes, or 1.74 million bpd, up 45.5% from a year earlier and compared with 6.36 million bpd in May.

For the first six months, imports from Russia came in at 37.69 million tonnes, or 1.53 million bpd, up 15.2% on the year.

Imports of U.S crude came in at 769,094 tonnes, versus 786,637 tonnes in May. Imports for the January-June period tumbled 76.2% from year-ago levels to 2.12 million tonnes or 515,722 bpd, amid the U.S-China trade dispute.

Beijing has not raised tariffs on U.S. oil despite raising duties on U.S. LNG and coal.

Reporting by Chen Aizhu in SINGAPORE and Muyu Xu in BEIJING; Editing by Mark Potter