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China crude imports from US, Iran, Venezuela continue in Sep, but volume kept at minimal

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China crude imports from US, Iran, Venezuela continue in Sep, but volume kept at minimal

Singapore — China continued to import crude oil from the US, Iran and Venezuela in September, but Asia's biggest energy consumer kept shipments from the three producers minimal due to the tariff and sanctions barriers blocking easier access to those supplies, latest data from the General Adminstration of Customs showed Friday.

China received 517,982 mt (126,560 b/d) of crude oil from US in September, down 50.2% from the same period a year earlier, GAC data showed.

Beijing has announced a 5% levy on US crude from September 1 as part of a round of countermeasures to impose tariffs on $75 billion worth of US goods.

However, the flow continued as the drop in benchmark crude prices could help absorb the impact of the tariff and the arbitrage window for US crude to China is still possible, while an oversupplied market leaves traders with alternative barrels to tap into, traders said.

Imports from Venezuela fell to a nine-year low of 588,698 mt (143,838 b/d) last month and the flow is expected to fall further in the fourth quarter.

Last time China received less volume from the South American producer was in December 2010, when it took 586,076 mt, GAC data showed.

In September, state-run PetroChina said it will suspend directly buying crude oil from Venezuela, in accordance with US sanctions on the South American producer.

Direct imports of Venezuelan crudes, almost all heavy sour, would officially come to an end from October, a company source with close knowledge of the matter previously told S&P Global Platts. PetroChina was the top importer for Venezuelan crude in China.

Shipments from Iran stood at 538,878 mt, the lowest level since January 2007, when Platts started to collect China's crude import data.

The combined shipments from the US, Iran and Venezuela consisted just 4% of China's total imports for the month, as Chinese traders adopted a cautious stance when making spot cargo purchases from the three producers.

NORTH SEA CRUDE

During January-September, volumes from North America plunged 46.8% on the year to 6.81 million mt due to lower US shipments earlier this year.

Making up for the sharp drop in light sweet US crude purchases, imports from Europe surged 20.1% year on year in the first three quarters, supported by more than a twofold jump in shipments from the UK.

Light sweet North Sea crude oil supplied by the UK shared similar specification and price movements with US crudes.

Imports from the UK jumped 101.2% year on year to 9.52 million mt in the first nine months.

The UK was the 10th biggest crude supplier to China in September with 1.31 million mt of arrivals, representing a 285.2% year-on-year increase.

Saudi Arabia remained the top crude supplier last month. The volume surged 89.4% year on year to 7.17 million mt in September.

But the delivery in October was expected to fall slightly, as some shipment loadings were said to have been delayed due to an attack on the suppliers' key facilities in mid-September.

China imported 209 million mt of crude from OPEC in January-September, up 10.1% year on year.

Supplies from the Middle East and South America rose 9.3% and 11.5%, respectively, year on year during the first nine months.

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

-- Gawoon Philip Vahn, Philip.Vahn@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Nurul Darni, nurul.indriani.darni@spglobal.com