China’s crude oil imports from Russia soared 55% from a year earlier to a record level in May, displacing Saudi Arabia as the top supplier. Refiners cashed in on discounted supplies amid sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
The data shows Russia took back the top ranking of suppliers to the world’s biggest crude oil importer after a gap of 19 months. This shows that Moscow can find buyers for its oil despite western sanctions, though it has had to slash prices. And while China’s overall crude oil demand has dampened by COVID-19 curbs and a slowing economy.
Leading importers, including refining giant Sinopec and trader Zhenhua Oil, have stepped up buying cheaper Russian oil on top of sanctioned supplies from Iran and Venezuela. This allows them to scale back competing supplies from West Africa and Brazil.
China’s overall crude oil imports rose nearly 12% in May. From a low base a year earlier to 10.8 million bpd, versus the 2021 average of 10.3 million bpd.
Separately, data also showed China’s imports of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) amounted to nearly 400,000 tonnes last month. And then 56% more than May 2021.
For the first five months, imports of Russian LNG – from mostly Sakhalin-2 project in the Far East and Yamal LNG in the Russian Arctic. This rose 22% on the year to 1.84 million tonnes, according to customs data.May 2021