Russia leads as top crude supplier to China, overtakes Saudi

BEIJING (Reuters) - Russia became the largest crude oil supplier to China in May, supported by robust demand from private refiners and alongside a fall in supplies from Iran.

FILE PHOTO: A VLCC oil tanker is seen at a crude oil terminal in Ningbo Zhoushan port, Zhejiang province, China May 16, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Imports from Russia came in at 6.36 million tonnes in May, or 1.50 million barrels per day (bpd), data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Tuesday.

On a barrels per day basis, imports were up 4% from a year ago, but were flat versus April when China’s total crude oil imports hit a monthly record.

For the first five months of the year, shipments from Russia were 30.54 million tonnes or 1.48 million bpd, up 9.8% percent from a year ago, customs data showed.

Iranian supplies to China fell to 254,016 bpd in May from 789,137 bpd in April and 763,674 bpd a year ago.

Chinese oil majors Sinopec and CNPC skipped Iran oil purchases for May after the expiry of a waiver on U.S. sanctions.

Arrivals from Saudi Arabia fell 25% last month from a year ago to 1.108 million bpd. That compared with 1.53 million bpd in April.

Ongoing refinery maintenance in the second quarter such as Sinoepc’s Luoyang refinery affected crude demand from state refiners that often favors Saudi grades as feedstock.

Imports of U.S crude came in at 786,637 tonnes in May, or 185,240 million bpd, up from 116,272 bpd in April.

For the first five months, China’s crude imports from the United States fell 80% from a year ago to 1.35 million tonnes or 65,264 bpd. Buying has dwindled amid an escalation of trade tensions, even though the Chinese government has not raised tariffs on U.S. oil despite raising duties on U.S. LNG and coal.

Reporting by Meng Meng and Aizhu Chen. Editing by Jane Merriman