Singapore — Surpassing Brazil, Angola has risen to be the top crude supplier to China's independent refineries in April, having supplied around 2.17 million mt of crude during the month, S&P Global Platts monthly survey showed Wednesday.
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Angolan imports, which surged 72.7% from a month ago, hit a fresh record high in April. The last high of 1.9 million mt was recorded in January 2018. The rise in Angolan imports was generally in line with the pickup in overall imports for the sector. A total of 13 Angolan grades arrived last month, shared among 12 buyers, the most number of buyers as compared with buyers of Brazilian crudes.
"The African grades were getting expensive in April, but those grades from the Middle East were even higher, so some chose to import African ones," a source at an independent refinery said.
Following Angola, crude imports from Brazil and Russia were also higher in April compared with March, at 1.988 million mt and 1.618 million mt, respectively, taking the top second and third places.
Total imports from the top three suppliers amounted to 5.77 million mt, or 63.5% of the combined imports for the sector.
Nevertheless, Brazil was the top supplier over January-April at around 7.766 million mt, surpassing even Russia, who prior to 2019, was traditionally the top crude supplier to independent refineries.
Platts' survey covers barrels imported by 38 refineries with quotas, and others without quotas, through ports mostly in Shandong province, Tianjin and Dalian in northeastern Liaoning province.
These refiners were awarded a combined 76.22 million mt to-date in 2019, accounting for 84.2% of the county's total allocation for independent refineries, including the first batch as well as supplemental volumes.
The barrels include those imported directly by refiners and trading companies, which will be used by the independent sector.
Only cargoes discharged over the month -- including those that arrived in previous months -- were counted as imports for the month.
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ESPO AND LULA REMAIN TOP GRADES
Despite the popularity of African grades, ESPO was the most sought after crude grade as it was bought by 11 companies in April -- the highest number of buyers for a single crude grade.
ESPO imports were up 38.3% from March at 1.62 million mt. Tianhong Chemical and Wonfull Petrochemical were two of the major buyers of ESPO cargoes, in addition to Lijin Petrochemical.
Lula was the second most popular grade last month, with around 1.12 million mt imported by seven independent refineries, up 7.4% from a month ago.
Imports of Merey crude was the third largest in terms of volume, rising 31.3% month on month to 581,000 mt last month. However, import of the grade is likely to drop in the coming months, with only three VLCCs carrying the grade scheduled to arrive in China this month.
The top five crudes accounted for a combined 4.27 million mt, or 47% of the total imports.
In addition to these typical crude grades, around 73,000 mt of CPC blend was imported by ChemChina in April, the first for the grade, into Shandong.
The CPC blend from Kazakhstan, has an API of around 44.4, and sulfur of around 0.59%.
The cargo was co-loaded with around 60,000 mt of Malaysian Nemina blend, which arrived at Yantai port.
QINGDAO TAKES HALF THE IMPORTS
Meanwhile, Qingdao and Dongjiakou ports have received around 4.62 million mt of crudes in April, or 50.8% of last month's overall imports.
Imports arriving via both these ports rose 7.1% month on month from March.
Yantai port has been catching up with around 1.6 million mt of crudes arriving in April, up 52.4% from March.
This was boosted main by Jincheng Petrochemical and Wonfull Petrochemical.
Jincheng Petrochemical has been ramping crude throughput after starting up the new petrochemical plant, while Wonfull Petrochemical has been diverting most of its imports to Yantai port after being connected to the port via pipelines.
--Edited by Norazlina Juma'at, email@example.com