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China imports of Iran crude fall, Saudi inflows reach record

Highlights

Iran imports slump 59.1% on year in June

Saudi volumes grow to 1.89 million b/d

US inflows total 769,095 mt in month

Singapore — China continued to import crude oil from Iran in June albeit at a slower pace as the waivers to US' sanction on Iranian oil ended on May 2.

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It imported 855,638 mt or 209,060 b/d in June, reflecting a 59.1% year on year slump, data available on Sunday by the General Administration of Customs showed.

GAC releases data in metric tons, which S&P Global Platts converts to barrels using a 7.33 conversion factor.

Iran was the top 11th supplier of crude oil to China in June, slightly higher than the 769,095 mt of crude oil, which came from the US originally.

Both state-owned and independent refiners took US crudes in June, ahead of the agreement between Beijing and Washington to resume trade talks during the Osaka G20 summit in end-June, but the flow in June dropped 50.3% year on year. In May, China imported 786,638 mt from the US.

The independent refinery Tianhong Chemical in Shandong province took about 142,000 mt of Alaskan North Slope crude loaded from Yeosu in South Korea, a port source said.

The rest barrels, including two-VLCC cargoes loaded from Panama, were taken by Unipec, the port source added. These barrels were likely to supply Sinopec's refineries in Shijiazhuang, Jinan and Luoyang, Maoming, a refining source with Sinopec said and added the oil giant continues to import US crude oil in the coming month.

China's top 10 crude oil suppliers June 2019

SAUDI ARABIA SUPPLIES HIT RECORD HIGH

Supply from Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, surged 84.1% year on year to hit an all-time high of 7.72 million mt or 1.89 million b/d in June.

The last recorded high was in March when volumes hit 1.73 million b/d, GAC data showed.

As a result, the kingdom overtook Russia to became the top crude supplier to China in both June and the first half of the year.

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The surge was due to a combination of low imports in the same period of last year while new customers ramped up buying.

Unipec, Sinopec's trading company, cut back its nominations for Saudi crude by 40% of the total monthly allocations for May-July loading in 2018.

Therefore, Saudi shipments in June 2018 fell 18.5% from May to 4.19 million mt and further dropped to 3.24 million mt in July.

Meanwhile, Saudi Aramco's new customers in the independent refining sector -- Zhejiang Petrochemical Co. and Hengli Petrochemical (Dalian) also contributed additional flows this June.

The Hengli Petrochemical (Dalian) took about 1.1 million mt of Arab Heavy, Arab Light, Arab Medium in June, S&P Global Platts' data showed.

The Saudi crude supplier typically focuses on China's state-run oil firms with stable demand and credit, but it is now targeting larger independent refineries.

Aramco agreed to supply 130,000 b/d of crude oil to Hengli in 2019, and 116,000 b/d to ZPC, Platts reported earlier.

OPEC ARRIVALS UP 10% IN H1

With increasing inflow from Saudi Arabia, OPEC's crude supplies to China rose 10.2% year on year to 139.06 million mt during January-June, despite 30.1% drop in Iranian crude, 4.9% and 3.6% decline in Kuwaiti and Venezuelan crudes, respectively.

Middle East, which accounted 43.2% market share, delivered 105.62 million mt into China in H1, up 9% year on year.

Supplies from the South America also gained 11% year on year on the back of 20.22 million mt import from Brazil, a rise of 24.8%.

However, the volume from North America plunged 72.1% year on year to 2.59 million mt in the first six months.

(Adds import details from various refiners, other details.)

-- Oceana Zhou, oceana.zhou@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jim Levesque, jim.levesque@spglobal.com