China Feb Iran crude imports fall 40 pct
China slashed February crude oil imports from Iran by 40 percent from a year earlier due to a contract dispute with Tehran, but raised purchases from top oil exporter Saudi Arabia to new highs, Chinese customs data showed on Wednesday, Reuters reported .
China, Iran's largest oil client, brought in about 290,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude last month, 41 percent below January as the cuts started with January-lifting cargoes. The purchases are reflected in February Chinese data and largely matched earlier reports by Reuters.
Meanwhile, China boosted imports from Saudi Arabia, the only big oil producer with significant amounts of spare capacity, to a record 1.39 million bpd in February.
The amount was 38.6 percent higher from a year earlier and up 23 percent, or 260,000 bpd, from 1.13 million bpd in January.
That is also largely in line with what industry sources have told Reuters, that the top oil exporter has been sending some 200,000 bpd of extra oil to Asia, the bulk of which was destined for China.
Top refiner Sinopec reduced Iranian oil imports for liftings throughout the first quarter of this year, to protest against the tougher contract terms proposed by the Iranian side, Reuters has reported.
Under the annual contract which finally concluded in late February after nearly three months of talks, China will buy 10-15 percent less crude from Iran this year versus 2011, with the cuts mostly already made in the first three months, a Beijing-based Chinese oil executive with direct knowledge of the deal told Reuters.
February crude imports from Iran were 41 percent or 202,151 bpd lower than 490,727 bpd in January, knocking Iran as a supplier to China to seventh position from third last year.
China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, is Iran's largest trading partner and biggest oil client that buys up to 20 percent of the Islamic Republic's total crude exports.
The United States on Tuesday exempted Japan and 10 EU nations from financial sanctions because they have significantly cut purchases of Iranian crude oil, but left Iran's top customers China and India exposed to the possibility of such steps.
China has been scouring the world for crude to make up the lost Iranian oil. It bought extra crude from Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries, as well as Russia in February, more than offsetting the loss of imports from Iran, the data showed.
Imports from Iraq jumped 135 percent on year to 473,634 bpd, up 98,316 bpd, or 26 percent from the 375,318 bpd imported in January, the data showed.
Crude imports from other Gulf countries also rallied, with those from Kuwait up nearly 50 percent on year to 242,092 bpd and United Arab Emirates up 45 percent to 195,707 bpd.
Imports from Russia were 602,714 bpd in February, 20,857 bpd, or 3.6 percent higher than 581,857 bpd in January and 52 percent higher from a year earlier.
However, crude imports from Sudan fell nearly 60 percent from a year earlier to 164,238 bpd, the data showed, after South Sudan in January stopped production in a transit fee row with civil war foe Sudan.