China's crude imports from its major suppliers rose significantly in November versus a year ago, with Russian cargoes hitting a record high, although shipments from top exporter Saudi Arabia fell 5.9% to 3.99 million mt, detailed data from China's General Administration of Customs showed Tuesday.
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Besides Russia, China's crude imports from Angola, Iraq and the UAE all showed double-digit growth rates both year on year and month on month during November, while Libyan imports also rose significantly.
Russian imports to China hit a monthly record high of 3.31 million mt in November, surging 65.5% year on year and 20.3% month on month.
Data from Platts shiptracker cFlow shows China received at least seven Aframax vessels from the Russian port of Kozmino, where ESPO blend crude loads, during November. This was up from five vessels in October.
China imports mostly ESPO grade from Russia although it also takes others such as Urals, Vityaz and Sokol.
Other than seaborne cargoes, ESPO crude is delivered via pipeline to China under a term contract from Rosneft.
Russia sends its export blend ESPO to international markets via the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline, which splits into two routes at Skovorodino in the Amur region, near the border with China.
From this point, 15 million mt/year is sent to China, via the Skovorodino-Mohe pipeline offshoot, under a long-term contract between Rosneft and China National petroleum Corp. signed in 2009.
The other route, with the capacity up to 30 million mt/year, runs to Kozmino port on the Pacific Coast, from where Russian companies export mainly spot volumes.
The previous record-high for China's monthly crude imports from Russia was in May this year, at 2.95 million mt. IRAQI, LIBYAN VOLUMES RISE
Elsewhere, Iraqi crude cargoes to China jumped 20.6% year on year and 34.3% month on month to 2.63 million mt, although shipments from Iran eased 3.9% year on year to 2.13 million mt.
Cargoes from Oman also slumped 9.4% year on year to 2.07 million mt although imports from the UAE soared 31.3% to 1.2 million mt.
Rounding off the top 10 suppliers was Libya, which saw volumes to China total 555,201 mt in November, up from zero a year ago and more than double the October arrivals.
China resumed imports from the North African country in September after a year-long hiatus because civil unrest and anti-government protests severely curbed crude production in Libya.
The Suezmax-sized Ottoman Nobility arrived in China's Yangpu port in late November from the Libyan export terminal of Es Sider. Similarly, another Suezmax tanker Ottoman Tenacity arrived in Yangpu from Marsa el-Hariga in late November. It was chartered by Chinese state-owned trader Unipec. YEAR-TO-DATE IMPORTS FROM SAUDI ARABIA FALL
Over January to November, China's total imports of crude oil rose 9% to 6.1 million b/d, the fastest pace of growth since 2010.
Yet imports of Saudi crude slumped 9.2% to 45.14 million mt, or under 1 million b/d. Saudi Arabian exports now account for 16.2% of China's imported crude, down from roughly a fifth in previous years.
Chinese refiners say they have taken less Saudi crude than expected this year because of more competitive crudes from other countries.
Angolan volumes to China were up 2.3% over the period to 36.8 million mt while Russia is now China's third-largest supplier of crude, moving up from fourth position in 2013.
Overall volumes from Oman, Iraq, Iran, the UAE and Colombia all rose significantly from the previous year.
So far this year, the Middle East has accounted for 52.2% of China's crude imports, up from 51.7% over January to November last year, while the share of African crudes has eased slightly to 22% from 22.7% previously. Latin America accounted for 10.7% of China's total crude imports this year, rising from 9.6% previously.