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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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Chinese Refiners Buy More Iranian Oil As Competition For Russian Crude Heats Up

  • Private Chinese refiners in the Shangdong province are estimated to have bought 800,000 bpd of Iranian crude oil and condensate in March.
  • As Indian refiners and China’s state-owned oil giants buy up Russian crude, teapots are increasingly reliant on Iranian oil.
  • There isn’t any official data on Iranian imports into China, but tanker-tracking companies estimate a 20% increase in March.

Many private Chinese refiners in the Shandong province are buying increasing volumes of Iranian crude as competition for Russian oil from China's major state-held refiners and from Indian buyers has made Moscow's barrels relatively more expensive.

China's private refiners, the so-called teapots, are estimated to have imported 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude oil and condensate in March, up by 20% compared to February, Emma Li, an analyst with Vortexa, told Bloomberg.

Imports from Iran into the Shandong province—home to most of the private refiners in China—could continue to be robust in the coming months, according to the analyst.

There isn't official data on Iranian imports into China, so the market relies on tanker-tracking companies that aim to capture the true picture of how much of Iran's oil, sanctioned by the U.S. and going to very few destinations these days, is being shipped to China.

The private refiners in the world's top oil importer are now betting more on cheap Iranian crude, as Russian supply is going to the state-owned Chinese majors and to India's refiners. Russia's crude is also cheaper compared to international benchmarks, but heightened competition has driven up prices in recent weeks.

Russia was the single largest crude oil supplier to China in January and February, overtaking Saudi Arabia, which was the number-one supplier of oil to China last year, according to Chinese customs data from last month. As China accelerated the buying of cheap Russian crude oil at discounts to international benchmarks, Chinese imports of crude from Russia jumped by 23.8% year over year to 1.94 million barrels per day (bpd) in January and February 2023.

India, for its part, is also boosting imports of Russian oil to record levels. In February, Russia remained India's top oil supplier for a fifth consecutive month.

Both India and China are not abiding by the G7 price cap as they seek opportunistic purchases of cheap crude.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on April 06 2023 said:
    Russia is currently exporting 8.0 million barrels a day (mbd) of crude oil and petroleum products. Russian exports are made of 5.0 mbd of crude and 3.0 mbd of petroleum products.

    And with China, India and other Asian countries and oil traders buying now all Russian crude exports, Chinese refiners have no alternative but to look for other sources of oil exports hence importing more of Iranian crude.

    Another factor is that stiff competition for Russian oil from China's major state-held refiners and from Indian buyers has made Moscow's barrels relatively more expensive.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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