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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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Russia Overtakes Saudi Arabia To Become China’s Top Oil Supplier

  • Russia overtook China to become the top supplier of oil to China in January and February, with imports of Russian crude hitting to 1.94 million bpd.
  • Chinese imports of Russian oil jumped by 23.8% year-over-year as the country took advantage of Russia’s discounted crude.
  • For the full-year 2022, Saudi Arabia was China’s top crude oil supplier – ahead of Russia – with shipments averaging 1.75 million bpd.
Imports

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 cited by Reuters.

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, per the data reported by China’s General Administration of Customs.

China reports trade and economic data for January and February together to remove distortions around the fluctuating week-long Lunar New Year holiday.

In the first two months of this year, Russia beat Saudi Arabia to the top spot of Chinese crude oil suppliers as imports of Saudi crude fell by 4.7% to the equivalent of 1.72 million bpd, compared to 1.81 million bpd for the same period of 2022.

For the full-year 2022, Saudi Arabia was China’s top crude oil supplier – ahead of Russia – with shipments averaging 1.75 million bpd.

In recent months, China has been buying increased volumes of Russian crude as Moscow pivoted its sales to Asian markets following the Western embargoes and price caps on its crude oil and refined petroleum products.

The independent refiners in China, often referred to as the teapots, are importing a large portion of the Russian volumes, taking advantage of the deep discounts at which Russia sells its oil to customers.  

Despite a sluggish start to 2023, China’s energy commodity imports are expected to rise later this year, while oil demand is set to rebound and lead global oil consumption to a record high, forecasters say.

China’s reopening is set to add momentum to global economic growth, OPEC said in its Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) this week, as it revised up its forecast for Chinese oil demand growth.   

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its report last week that “Building stocks today will ease tensions as the market swings into deficit during the second half of the year when China is expected to drive world oil demand to record levels.”  

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Mamdouh Salameh on March 20 2023 said:
    This isn’t new news since Russia overtook Saudi Arabia a year ago more than a year ago.

    In fact, Russia has displaced both Saudi Arabia and Iraq to become the largest crude oil supplier to both China and India respectively in 2022.

    Russia's combined crude exports to both China and India are already estimated at 3.5-3.7 mbd.
    When Turkey's and other Asian countries' purchases are added, it means that Russia has found markets to its entire crude exports despite unprecedented Western sanctions, bans and the oil price cap.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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