Russia was China’s largest crude oil supplier in March, data showed on Tuesday, retaining the lead spot for a 13th consecutive month.
Last month, Russia supplied 5.79 million tonnes, equal to 1.36 million barrels per day (bpd), up 23.6 percent from the same month a year earlier, data from the General Administration of Customs showed. Russia has been the biggest oil exporter to China since March last year.
For the first quarter, Russian shipments rose 22 percent from a year earlier to 16.51 million tonnes, or 1.34 million bpd.
Saudi Arabia, China’s second-biggest supplier in March, also ramped up its exports, the data showed. Shipments last month were 4.6 million tonnes, or 1.09 million bpd, up 1.2 percent from a year ago, but down from 1.2 million bpd in February.
The kingdom is expected to catch up in volume later this year as private Chinese chemical producer Hengli Group will start trial runs in October at a greenfield refinery in northeast China. The plant can process up to 400,000 bpd and is geared to use Saudi oil.
China’s total crude oil imports in March rose to the second-highest on record at 9.2 million bpd, boosted by ample government quotas and healthy refining margins. At the same time, the country exported a record amount of refined fuel to ease a domestic surplus.
March crude oil arrivals from Angola, China’s third-biggest supplier, fell 12.5 percent from a year ago to 4.08 million tonnes, or 961,810 bpd. Supplies for the first quarter fell 2.9 percent to about 1 million bpd, the data showed.
Overall, China imported 112.1 million tonnes of crude during the first quarter, or about 9.1 million bpd.
The hefty first-quarter purchases caused a backlog of cargoes off the coast of east China in late March. Imports next month may slow as Chinese refineries enter the peak maintenance season starting from April.
The United States last month shipped 973,758 tonnes of crude oil, with first quarter volumes amounting to 3.9 million tonnes, or 315,475 bpd.