Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, kept its ranking as China’s top crude supplier for a ninth straight month in August as major producers relaxed production cuts.
Saudi oil arrivals surged 53% from a year earlier to 8.06 million tonnes, or 1.96 million barrels per day (bpd), data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
That compares with 1.58 million bpd in July and 1.24 million bpd in August last year.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, known as OPEC+, decided in July to ease production cuts and increase supply by a further 2 million bpd, adding 0.4 million bpd a month from August until December. In July, OPEC output increased by 640,000 bpd to 26.66 million bpd.
China’s crude oil imports from Russia stood at 6.53 million tonnes in August, or 1.59 million bpd, flat versus 1.56 million bpd in July.
The big gap behind Saudi volumes was due to Beijing’s decision to slash crude oil import quotas to its independent refiners, who favour Russia’s ESPO blend.
Crude oil arrivals from Malaysia more than doubled from year-ago levels to 1.75 million tonnes, with traders saying refiners might have rebranded Venezuelan heavy oil previously passed on as bitumen blend into Malaysian crude after Beijing imposed hefty import taxes on blending fuels.
Meanwhile, shipments from the United Arab Emirates fell nearly 40% on-year, a possible sign demand for Iranian oil passed on as grades including UAE supplies remained lacklustre after peak arrivals early this year.
Official data has consistently recorded zero imports from Iran or Venezuela since the start of this year.