Angola surpassed Russia as the top crude supplier to China's independent refineries in October, while the United States made it to the top 10 list for the first time that month, a monthly survey by S&P Global Platts showed.
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A total of 1.493 million mt of Angolan crudes arrived last month into China, up 7.5% from September.
Among the grades, Saturno crude was the most favored, with 408,000 mt arriving last month, or 27% of the total. Jincheng and Qingyuan were the main takers of the grade last month.
Russia shipped around 1.491 million mt of crude in October to independent refiners in China, with ESPO accounting for about 99% of the total volumes, and the rest being Urals.
Russian ESPO is favored by independent refineries for its high yield of gasoil, as well as the relatively shorter voyage time between China and Russia. Gasoil demand has remained robust through October, which in return has supported the strong buying appetite for ESPO.
The average price of gasoil in China increased by Yuan 435/mt ($64/mt), or 8%, to Yuan 5,830/mt in October, mainly because of lower availability of blended gasoil, according to sources.
But over the January-October period, Russia was still also the largest supplier to China's independent refiners, with volumes at 15 million mt, up 124% year on year.
Venezuelan was the third-largest supplier October, shipping around 843,000 mt, up 7.4% on the month.
"Demand for Venezuelan Merey crudes have remained strong in recent months," said a source with a state trading company.
Merey crudes have been popular among independent refineries because of relatively higher yields of asphalt, demand for which has been strong in the local market.
In the first ten months of 2017, crude imports by independent refiners came to 78.44 million mt, up 91% year on year. Imports from Malaysia - mainly blended crudes - saw the biggest jump of around 1,738% to 4.96 million mt over the 10-month period. Among the grades, Nemina was the one specially blended to meet the demand for ChemChina's refineries. The grade normally has an API of around 30 and sulfur content of around 1%.
Imports from Oman dropped by 5.2% to around 4.6 million mt during the period. Imports from the US, which didn't feature last year, shot up to 1.48 million mt over the January-October period, moving to the eleventh spot.
In October, Hongrun took a second Mars cargo of around 163,000 mt from the United States, after its first cargo arrived in September.
Sources said independent refineries are expected to take in more US barrels in coming months. In addition to US crudes, Shenchi received about 140,000 mt of Iranian heavy crude at Dongjiakou port at the end of September. It was counted in October numbers as it only finished offloading in early October.
This was the second independent refinery in Shandong to have taken Iranian heavy crude, after Wonfull.
Qingdao - comprising Huangdao and Dongjiakou - remained the biggest port in terms of taking crude for independent refineries in October, receiving a total of around 3.18 million mt, which was up by about 5% from 3 million mt last month, according to a source at Qingdao Port.
"From the vessel schedules we have received for November, slightly less number of cargoes will call at the berths this month," said the source.
Meanwhile, around 1.32 million mt of crude have discharged at Yantai port last month, up 40% from September.
"Independent refineries rushed to import crudes by end October, in order to secure their new allocation for the next year," said a port source at Yantai.
Jincheng Petrochemical in October received around 472,000 mt of crudes via Yantai port.
-- Staff reports