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CHINA: Saudi Arabia retained its top spot in Chinese oil supplies in 2021, with supplies up 3.1% from 2020, and increased its share to 17% of total Chinese imports, according to the customs data.

China imported 87.58 million tonnes of crude oil from the kingdom, equivalent to 1.75 million barrels a day, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Thursday.

This compares to 84.92 million tonnes in 2020, when Saudi Arabia held 16% of the Chinese market.

The increase in market share of OPEC’s top exporter is due to increased sales to domestic refiners and demand from private mega-refiners Zhejiang Petrochemical Corp and Hengli Petrochemical.

Russia came in second, widening the gap with Saudi Arabia, as supplies contracted 4.7% to 79.65 million tonnes, or 1.59 million bpd, weighed down by weaker demand Chinese independent refiners.

Shipments from Iraq came third and fell 10% on the year to 54.13 million tonnes. Brazil fell to 7th place last year from 4th in 2020, with supplies down 28% to 30.28 million tonnes, also due to reduced appetite from smaller independent factories.

As part of a broad campaign to limit excess refining capacity and reduce carbon emissions, the Chinese government last year introduced measures such as reducing import quotas and imposing a heavy tax on blending fuel imports.

Imports from Oman and Malaysia increased by 18% and 50%, respectively.

Reuters reported that shipments from Iran and Venezuela were passed off as coming from Oman and Malaysia due to US sanctions.

Customs data from China showed on Thursday that the country imported its first Iranian crude oil imports in a year in December despite ongoing US government sanctions.

Officially, Chinese customs data still did not show imports from Venezuela.

Thursday’s data showed US supplies plunged 42% to 11.47 million tonnes.

The table below shows details of imports by country, in metric tons. Volumes over the period January-December and percentage changes are calculated by Reuters.


Jan-Dec. volume

Jan-Dec year/year %




Saudi Arabia




54 130 343





United Arab Emirates