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China Reports First Official Iranian Oil Imports Since 2020

China brought in 260,312 tonnes of Iranian crude oil in December, General Administration of Chinese Customs data shows

The refilling of China's strategic petroleum reserves also comes ahead of a plan to release oil from its emergency stockpile in a rare coordination with the United States to help cool global oil prices, which hit a seven-year high this week. Photo: Reuters.


China reported the first imports of Iranian crude oil in a year despite ongoing sanctions by the US government, according to data released by customs on Thursday.

China brought in 260,312 tonnes of Iranian crude oil in December, according to data from China’s General Administration of  Customs, which last recorded Iranian oil inflows in December 2020 at 520,000 tonnes.

It was not immediately clear which company brought in the latest cargo, which is equal to the amount of oil that would fit onto one very large crude carrier, and which terminal it was discharged into.

Unofficially, China’s imports of Iranian oil had held above 500,000 barrels per day on average between August and October, as buyers judged that getting crude at cheap prices outweighed the risks of busting US sanctions, Reuters reported in November.

To avoid the sanctions, Iranian crude has been exported to China marked as oil from Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, squeezing out supplies from Brazil and West Africa, traders have said.

Imports from Iran have accounted for about 6% of China’s crude oil imports, according to shipping data and trader estimates.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years and has a family in Bangkok.


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