BEIJING, Dec 22 (Reuters) – China’s crude oil imports from Iran fell 2.6 percent in November from a year ago but were up more than half from October, customs data showed on Monday.
November imports hit 2.13 million tonnes, or 517,560 barrels per day (bpd), up 53 percent from 338,635 bpd in October.
As Iran’s largest oil client, China brought in 24.9 million tonnes, or 544,100 bpd, in the first 11 months of the year, up 29 percent over the same period last year, the highest level since 2011.
Forecasts by Thomson Reuters Oil Analytics show that imports in December could once again top 2 million tonnes.
Talks between Iran and six powers, the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany, to resolve a 12-year stand-off over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions were extended last month until June 2015. China has raised its crude purchases after the easing of Western sanctions against Iran as part of an interim deal.
As for next year, China’s state-run oil trader Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp has renewed a pact with National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) to buy the same volume of Iranian crude supplies as it did this year.
Sources told Reuters that the state-owned Iranian oil company is also leasing storage in northeast Chinese port Dalian, and has made at least two deliveries of crude from there to India and one to South Korea, suggesting that some oil may pass through China without being recorded in customs statistics.
China recorded no oil exports to India this year.
Data last month showed that Asian imports of Iranian crude had fallen below 1 million bpd to a one-year low, due to seasonal demand fluctuations, although shipments were still up nearly a third from October last year.
Chinese imports from top producer Saudi Arabia were down 5.9 percent in November to 3.99 million tonnes, or 970,610 bpd, while imports from Russia, China’s third-largest supplier, came in at 3.31 million tonnes, or 806,520 bpd, up 65 percent annually.
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