BEIJING: China's crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia rose 43pc last month, making the Middle Eastern OPEC kingpin once again the top supplier to the world's second-biggest economy, boosted by demand from new private refiners.

Saudi imports grew to 6.30 million tonnes, or 1.53 million barrels per day (bpd) on a daily basis, compared with 1.07 million bpd in the year ago period, according to data from the General Administration of Customs released on Saturday.

Saudi shipments were supported by higher refinery run rates at Hengli Petrochemical Co Ltd, with production at the 400,000 bpd-capacity refinery in northeast China expected to reach optimal levels in late June.

About 70pc of the feedstock for Hengli came from Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile Russian supplies were 6.12 million tonnes, or 1.49 million bpd, up from 1.35 million bpd in April last year.

China imported 3.24 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran, or 789,137 bpd, up from March's 541,100 bpd, as companies ramped up buying before the scrapping of sanctions waivers the United States had granted to big buyers of Iranian oil.

China Petrochemical Corp (Sinopec Group) and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the country's top state-owned refiners, are halting Iranian oil purchases for loading in May, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

Venezuela shipments stood at 1.9 million tonnes, or 462,813 bpd in April, up 85pc versus 249,700 bpd in March, while crude imports from Iraq were 3.31 million tonnes, or 806,372 bpd, down from 904,500 bpd the previous month.

Copyright Reuters, 2019