Saudi Arabia held its position as the biggest supplier of crude oil to China for an 11th month in a row in October, with volumes up 19.5 percent from a year ago, customs data showed on Sunday.
Saudi oil arrivals totaled 7.1 million tons, or 1.67 million barrels per day (bpd), data from the General Administration of Customs showed, which is 19.5 percent higher than 1.4 million bpd a year and compares with 1.94 million bpd in September.
Inflows from Russia, including pipeline oil, inched up by 1.3 percent from a year ago to 6.6 million tons last month, or 1.56 million barrels per day (bpd). That compared with 1.49 million bpd in September.
The growth in Russian supplies, primarily of its flagship oil ESPO blend, followed China’s release of fresh import quotas in August and October that allowed independent plants to lift purchases of one of their favorite grades.
Still, China’s overall October crude oil imports fell to the lowest in three years amid Beijing’s broad cap on independent refiners’ imports.
Supplies from Brazil were down 53.2 percent from a year earlier, while those from the United States slumped by 91.8 percent.
Reuters reported China’s imports of Iranian oil have held above half a million barrels per day on average between August and October, as buyers judge that getting crude at cheap prices outweighs any risks from busting US sanctions.
Most of these barrels were passed on as exports from Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, weighing on competing supplies from Brazil and West Africa.
Official data has consistently shown China has imported zero oil from Iran or Venezuela since start of 2021, as national oil companies stayed on the sidelines on worries over US sanctions.
Japan is considering releasing oil from its reserves for the first time to curb surging oil prices, Kyodo news agency reported on Saturday, as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida signaled his readiness to counter oil price hikes following a request from the United States.
The US administration of President Joe Biden, who faces falling approval ratings and higher gasoline prices, has pressed some of the world’s biggest economies to consider releasing oil from their strategic reserves to quell high energy prices.
The requests include asking China for the first time to consider releasing stocks of crude.