March 26, 2018 / 6:42 AM / a month ago

Russia holds firm as top crude oil supplier to China

BEIJING (Reuters) - Russia kept its spot as the largest crude oil supplier to China in February, data showed on Friday, a role it held in January and for the past two years on an annual basis.

Russia supplied 5.052 million tonnes, or 1.32 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, up 17.8 percent from a year earlier, data from the Chinese General Administration of Customs showed.

Saudi Arabia regained its No. 2 ranking after losing out to Angola in January, with February supplies coming in at 4.635 million tonnes, or 1.21 million bpd, down 2.9 percent on year but up from 1.01 million bpd in January.

The hefty Russian shipments, which gained 21 percent for the January-February period over a year earlier, came after a second East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline started commercial operation in January, along with expanded domestic connections in China. [O/CHINA1]

Imports from third-ranking Angola were 973,800 bpd, up 14.7 percent versus a year earlier.

Shipments from Brazil recorded the fastest growth among major suppliers, coming in at 2.4 million tonnes or about 626,160 bpd, up 54 percent on year, the data showed.

China’s total crude oil imports last month fell sharply from January’s record as independent refineries curbed buying amid worries about new tax rules.

The lower imports also came as refineries eased up on buying ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February, when manufacturing plants shut for up to two weeks.

Imports from the United States were 909,117 tonnes, or 237,020 bpd last month, down from 472,500 bpd in January.

U.S. shipments, which benefited from OPEC supply cuts and rebounding crude oil prices, averaged 153,000 bpd last year.

State-run Sinopec Corp, Asia’s top refiner, said last month it expected to boost its U.S. crude oil imports this year to more than 10 million tonnes, or 200,000 bpd.

Friday’s data also showed China’s imports from Iran fell nearly 28 percent last month on a year earlier to around 474,400 bpd.

State-run Chinese buyers have extended annual supply deals for calendar 2018 with Iran, said an industry source with direct knowledge of the matter, with total volumes steady from last year at about 550,000 bpd.

Chinese imports of Iranian oil held largely flat last year at around 623,000 bpd. The amount exceeded term volumes as companies lifted cargoes from oilfield investments in the Islamic Republic that are outside the regular supply contracts.

Reporting by Chen Aizhu; editing by Richard Pullin

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