According to trade sources and shipping statistics, Chinese state oil goliaths and significant private refiners are snatching up more Russian crude, sustaining prices and pressuring smaller independents to look for cheap substitutes, such as Iranian oil.
Since state refiners PetroChina and Sinopec began imports in February, demand from China’s largest consumers, who had avoided Russian petroleum in the immediate wake of Western sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, has increased.
According to traders and shiptracking data from Refinitiv, Kpler, and Vortexa, large private oil refiners Hengli Petrochemical and Jiangsu Eastern Shenghong Co began importing Russian crude in March.
Low-sulfur ESPO crude cargoes averaging roughly 740,000 barrels each were unloaded at Hengli’s Dalian terminal in four different shipments between March and April, according to Kpler statistics. In March and April, Shenghong bought cargoes of Urals oil totaling around 720,000 and 1,000,000 barrels, respectively.
According to the Kpler data, PetroChina received a million barrels of Urals crude in April via the Made Island port in Myanmar, which is connected by pipeline to its Yunnan refinery.
Requests for comment from PetroChina, Hengli, and Shenghong received no response.
In March, China’s total imports of Russian crude through pipelines and ships reached a record 9.61 million tonnes, or 2.26 million barrels per day (bpd).