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China's March crude oil supplies from Iran hit 7-month high before waiver expiry

Singapore — China's crude oil imports from Iran hit a seven-month high in March of 2.3 million mt, or 543,367 b/d, before the expiry of its waiver on the US' sanctions against Iran, the latest data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

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The highest previous monthly level was 3.28 million mt, recorded in August.

The March volume rose 6.2% from February on a barrels-per-day basis, despite dropping by a quarter from the same month of last year.

The White House announced Monday that the US would end all waivers from Iran oil sanctions when they expire May 2.

China's top crude oil suppliers

Meanwhile, crude shipments from Venezuela fell 42% on the year to 1.06 million mt, which was the lowest level since October, when the crude flow was at 928,106 mt.

China did not import US-origin crude oil in March after taking its first cargo since December in February, which was 85,841 mt.

But the inflow is expected to rebound significantly in April as refiners from both the state-run and independent sectors have US crude arrivals coming.

Supplies from Saudi Arabia hit an all-time high of 7.33 million mt (1.73 million b/d) in March, making the kingdom the top crude supplier to China in both March and the first quarter.

The inflow from Saudi Arabia jumped 59% from a year ago and 37% higher than the 5.35 million mt from Russia in the same month.

During January-March, China imported 5.84 million b/d of crude from OPEC, up 17% year on year to expand its market share by almost 5 percentage points to 59.2%.

However, the volume from North America shrank 90% year on year to 32,574 b/d in the first two months due to the sharp drop in US crude arrivals.

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

-- Edited by James Leech, newsdesk@spglobal.com