Singapore — China's independent refineries' crude imports from the Middle East jumped 59% on the month in March, with Saudi Arabian shipments climbing to the top second place, a monthly survey by S&P Global Platts showed Friday.
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The combined imports from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Oman and the UAE increased to 4.73 million mt, from a lower base of 2.98 million mt in February.
Combined imports from the Middle East accounted for about 38.8% of the total for March.
Those crude barrels from the Middle East were mainly brought in by Hengli Petrochemical, and Zhejiang Petroleum & Chemical, which account for about 66% of the total Middle Eastern grades.
Hengli Petrochemical and Zhejiang have term contracts with Saudi Aramco, making them steady buyers for those grades from Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Shandong refineries last month also doubled their imports from the Middle East, because crude prices offered were lower than the popular ones like Lula.
Qirun Petrochemical, the leading buyer in Shandong, imported 415,000 mt from the Middle East, including Oman, Omani and KBT crudes, with half of VLCCs each.
Besides Qirun, another seven refineries also imported grades from Iraq, Oman and the UAE.
IMPORTS FROM BRAZIL, ANGOLA DIP
Imports from Brazil and Angola continued to drop in March as shipments from the Middle East rose.
Crude imports from long haul Brazil and Angola, fell by 37.1% and 33.7%, respectively, from February, with the two countries to sliding to the top fourth and fifth places last month.
Brazil and Angola were also two out of three that supplied less to China in March, among the top 10 suppliers.
Brazil and Angola used to be the top two suppliers for China's independent refineries, together with Russia.
In the first three months of the year, total imports from Brazil and Angola dropped 17% year on year, while imports from Russia were up 15% from a year earlier.
RUSSIA REMAINS ON TOP
Russia remained the top supplier to China's independent refineries, with 2.4 million mt of crude arriving in March, up 47.5% on the month.
This was largely due to the fact that more ESPO crude was loaded last month from Russia's Far East, with 32 cargoes exported, up from about 27-28 in 100,000 mt cargoes in previous months.
The imports of Urals crudes from Russia saw a big jump of 95.7% on the month in March, to 994,000 mt.
Urals has become attractive since demand from Europe remained weak, and thus more barrels were sent to the East, according to sources.
ZPC, Hongrun, Hebei Xinhai Petrochemical each took one cargo of about 280,000 mt of Urals, while ChemChina took half of a VLCC last month.
ESPO remained the top grade imported by the highest number of importers at nine, followed by Lula at eight.
IMPORTS FROM NORWAY DOWN
Crudes from Norway continued to slide last month, with Johan Sverdrup and Grane Blend, both down month on month.
But still, four refineries have imported Johan Sverdrup crudes, and three have imported Grane Blend.
The Platts March survey covers crude barrels imported by 38 refineries with import quotas, as well as others without quotas, through ports mostly in the Shandong province, as well as Tianjin, Zhoushan and Dalian for the sector.
The barrels include those imported directly by the refiners, as well as cargoes bought by trading companies on behalf of the independent refiners.
The 38 refiners had been awarded a combined total of 83.96 million mt of import quotas in the first batch, accounting for 84% of the county's total allocations for independent refineries in three batches.
Top crude suppliers for independent refineries
Unit: '000 mt
Top crude grades for independent refineries
Unit: '000 mt
Source: S&P Global Platts data, company sources