China continued to be the largest buyer of Russian for a third month in July, according to Customs data released on Saturday, but imports were down from the record level in May of nearly 2 million barrels a day because of weak domestic demand.
Some 7.15 million tonnes of Russian oil was imported last month, pumped via the East Siberia Pacific Ocean pipeline and shipped from Russian ports near Europe and in the Far East.
That amount was 7.6% up on 2021, and equivalent to about 1.68 million barrels per day (bpd), the data showed.
Independent refiners in China stepped up purchases of discounted supplies while cutting shipments from rival suppliers such as Angola and Brazil.
Imports from second-ranking Saudi Arabia rebounded last month from June, which was the lowest in more than three years, to 6.56 million tonnes, or 1.54 million bpd, but still slightly below the level a year ago.
Year-to-date imports from Russia totalled 48.45 million tonnes, up 4.4% on the year, still trailing behind Saudi Arabia, which supplied 49.84 million tonnes, or 1% below the level in 2021.
China’s crude oil imports in July fell 9.5% from a year earlier, with daily volumes at the second lowest in four years, as refiners drew down inventories and domestic fuel demand recovered more slowly than expected.
The strong Russian purchases squeezed out competing supplies from Angola and Brazil, which fell 27% year-on-year and 58%, respectively.
Customs reported no imports from Venezuela or Iran last month. State oil firms have shunned purchases since late 2019 for fear of falling foul of secondary US sanctions.
Imports from Malaysia, often used as a transfer point in the past two years for oil originating from Iran and Venezuela, soared 183% on the year, to 3.34 million tonnes, and up from June’s 2.65 million tonnes.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard