Saudi Arabia remained China’s single largest crude oil supplier in June, ahead of Russia, although Saudi shipments to the world’s top oil importer fell by 19 percent last month amid lower overall imports, according to official Chinese customs data cited by Reuters.
In June 2021, China imported 1.75 million barrels per day (bpd) of Saudi crude oil, China’s General Administration of Customs said on Tuesday. This volume was higher than the 1.62 million bpd crude oil imports from Russia, keeping the Kingdom ahead of Russia as China’s top oil supplier for an eight month running, according to the data quoted by Reuters.
The customs data in China showed local refiners didn’t import any crude from either Iran or Venezuela, the two OPEC members under U.S. sanctions that restrict their oil exports.
Unofficially, however, China continues to import oil from Iran, often disguised as coming from other countries, including from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to previous Reuters reports.
China has put the brakes on overall crude oil imports in recent months, due to rising oil prices and a government crackdown on operations of some independent refiners.
China’s crude oil imports fell to around 9.77 million bpd in June, down by 2 percent on May and the lowest monthly level since the start of the year, customs data cited by Reuters showed last week.
Over the first half of the year, China imported 260.66 million tons of crude, or 10.51 million bpd per Reuters estimates. This was a 3 percent drop compared to the first half of 2020. The first-half figure was boosted by increased imports by independent refiners.
Since the first quarter, however, Beijing has begun cracking down on the teapots, as production of fuels both at independent refiners and state-owned majors was rising faster than demand, undermining refining margins and creating a glut.