BEIJING/SINGAPORE- Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, beat Russia to keep its ranking as China’s top crude supplier in 2020, government data showed on Wednesday.
China’s oil demand remained strong last year even as the COVID-19 pandemic hammered appetite for fuel elsewhere. The world’s top oil importer, brought in a record 542.4 million tonnes of crude oil in 2020, or 10.85 million barrels per day (bpd). That was up 7.3 per cent from a year earlier.
Annual Saudi shipments to China in 2020 were 84.92 million tonnes, or about 1.69 million barrels per day, data from the General Administration of Chinese Customs showed, up 1.9 per cent from a year earlier. Russia came in a close second with shipments of 83.57 million tonnes, or 1.67 million bpd, up 7.6 per cent from 2019, the data showed.
In December, Saudi supplies were 6.94 million tonnes, down 0.8 per cent from a year ago, while Russian volumes were 6.2 million tonnes last month, down 15.7 per cent on year. China’s oil imports from the United States more than trippled last year from 2019 as companies stepped up purchases under a trade deal with Washington.
Imports from the United States reached a total of 19.76 million tonnes in 2020, or about 394,000 bpd. In December, they reached 3.6 million tonnes. Saudi Arabia has played catch up as a supplier since November with steep cuts in prices to woo customers, overtaking Russia, which had led for most of 2020 with more flexible logistics and geographical proximity to Chinese refiners.
As tough U.S. sanctions nearly choked oil exports from producers Iran and Venezuela, Iraq became a major beneficiary. Iraq’s oil exports to China rose 16.1 per cent to 60.12 million tonnes in 2020 from the year prior, with the country remaining China’s third largest oil supplier.