China has again made Saudi Arabia its top crude oil supplier, while Russian oil is down 9%

After being overtaken by Russia in December 2018, Saudi Arabia has reclaimed the top spot as China’s largest crude supplier. Russian shipments fell 9% due to a reduction in import quotas, which led independent refiners in Russia to reduce their purchases.

The arrivals of crude oil from Saudi Arabia totalled 14.61 million tonnes in January-February. This is equivalent to 1.81 billion barrels per day (bpd) compared to 1.86 million bpd one year earlier, according to data from the General Administration of Customs on Sunday.

In the past two months, Russia imported 12.67 million tonnes of goods. That’s 1.57 million bpd. This compares to the 1.72 million bpd for the 2021 period.

China’s crackdowns on tax evasion, illegal trading in import quotas and demand for Russia’s flagship ESPO oil from independent Chinese refineries (known as teapots), have impacted the demand for Russia’s ESPO crude.

In an effort to reduce inefficient refining capacities, the government also reduced its first batch of 2022 crude import allowances for teapots.

As buyers around the world shun Russia’s cargoes, imports from Russia may plummet in March. This is due to the increasing Ukraine crisis. Reuters reports that Surgutneftegaz, a Russian producer, was working with China in order to avoid Western sanctions and maintain oil sales.

Sunday’s customs data revealed that 259,937 tons of Iranian crude oil were imported into China in January. This is the first official Chinese import since December 2020.

These shipments were made as Tehran and Western countries held talks to revive a 2015 nuclear agreement, which points to the possible lifting of U.S. oil export sanctions against Iran.

Chinese customs did not record any Iranian cargo in February.

China’s official data showed that there were no imports from Venezuela in February and January. Venezuela is also under U.S. sanctions.

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