MOSCOW (MRC) -- Russia maintained its spot as China's top crude oil supplier in August, Chinese government data showed on Wednesday, even as discounts on Russian crude continued to narrow and Moscow cut exports, as per Reuters.
China's imports from Russia -- including supplies via pipelines and seaborne shipments -- jumped 26% from August last year to 10.54 million metric tons, or 2.48 million barrels per day (bpd), the second highest on the record, according to data from the General Administration of Customs.
Russian arrivals over the first eight months of the year were up a quarter from a year earlier to 71.21 million tons. Shipments from Saudi Arabia totaled 8.01 million tons, or 1.89 million bpd, down 5.5% from a year earlier, but rising from 5.65 million tons in July.
Saudi exports to Asian refiners continue to be depressed by higher official selling prices, with the price for Asian refiners of the kingdom's signature Arab Light grade having risen by 20 cents to $3.20 a barrel over Oman/Dubai in August.
Saudi Arabia's ongoing unilateral cuts saw output reduced by 1 million bpd through August, and Riyadh has announced it will extend the cuts until the end of the year. Meanwhile, Moscow pledged that it would reduce crude exports by 500,000 bpd in August, and later announced it would extend cuts of 300,000 bpd until the end of the year.
Tightening supply and strong demand from Indian and Chinese independent refiners has seen the discount on sanctioned Russian crude narrow sharply. August-delivery ESPO shipments were priced at around a $4 per barrel discount to the ICE Brent benchmark, versus $6 for July delivery cargoes and $8.50 for shipments delivered in March, according to trading sources.
Chinese refiners use intermediary traders to handle shipping and insurance of Russian crude to avoid violating Western sanctions. Imports from Malaysia, used as a trans-shipment point for cargoes from Iran and Venezuela, soared 70% from a year earlier to 5.73 million tons, or 1.35 million bpd in August, the third largest supplier after Russia and Saudi Arabia.
China's imports of U.S. crude reached nearly 400,000 tons, up from zero a year earlier and taking the year-to-date volume to 9.85 million tons, more than doubling the year-ago amount.
We remind, Russia's United Oil- and Gas-Chemical Co. and China's Xuan Yuan Industrial Development have agreed to jointly invest USD686 MM in construction of a transshipment oil complex in Russia's far east. The complex will facilitate Russia's oil exports to China as Moscow expands its infrastructure to diversify exports of commodities eastward and away from Europe, which it now deems politically "unfriendly".