China announces the first official imports from Iran.. Saudi Arabia increases its share in the Chinese oil market, and Russia is declining

Data from Chinese customs showed that Saudi Arabia retained the lead in oil supplies to China in 2021, as imports from the Kingdom rose 3.1% compared to 2020, and its share increased to 17% of total Chinese imports.

According to data issued by the General Administration of Customs today, Thursday, China bought 87.58 million tons of crude from the Kingdom, equivalent to 1.75 million barrels per day. This is up from 84.92 million tons in 2020, when Saudi Arabia captured a 16% share of the Chinese market.

The increase in the market share of the largest oil exporter in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) came with boosting sales to national refiners and increasing demand from private refiners.

Russia came in second place, widening the gap with Saudi Arabia, as its supplies shrank 4.7% to 79.65 million tons (1.59 million barrels per day), under the weight of reduced demand from Chinese refiners.

Iraq’s shipments ranked third, declining 10% during the year to 54.13 million tons. Brazil also fell to seventh place last year, from the fourth in 2020, and its supplies shrank 28 percent to 30.28 million tons, also due to the decline in demand from independent small companies.

Reuters had reported that shipments from Iran and Venezuela were reported as coming from Oman and Malaysia due to US sanctions.

Chinese customs data showed today, Thursday, that the country brought in its first imports of Iranian crude oil in a year last December, despite the continued sanctions imposed by the US government.

Official Chinese customs data consistently shows no imports have been received from Venezuela. Thursday’s data showed that US supplies fell 42% to 11.47 million tons.

Chinese customs data showed the import of 260,312 tons of Iranian crude oil last December (Shutterstock)

Official imports of Iranian oil

On Thursday, China announced its first imports of Iranian crude oil in a year, despite the ongoing sanctions imposed by the US government, according to data released by customs today.

Data from the Chinese General Administration of Customs showed that the country imported 260,312 tons of Iranian crude oil last December.

The last record of the administration’s flow of Iranian oil to the country was in December 2020, which amounted to 520,000 tons.

It was not immediately clear which companies had brought in the latest cargo, which is equivalent to the amount of oil that one of the very large crude tankers could hold, nor which port the cargo had been offloaded at.

Unofficially, China’s imports of Iranian oil exceeded 500,000 barrels per day on average between last August and October, as buyers considered that the advantage of obtaining crude at cheap prices outweighed the risks of violating US sanctions.

Traders say Iranian crude is being exported to China as oil from Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia to evade sanctions, reducing supplies from Brazil and West Africa.

According to shipping data and dealers’ estimates, imports from Iran accounted for about 6% of China’s imports of crude oil.

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