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SINGAPORE/BEIJING: China’s crude oil imports from Russia rose 8.6% in April from a year earlier, as larger private refiners also embarked on purchases of the discounted fuel.

Arrivals from Russia - including seaborne shipments and supplies via pipelines - totalled 7.1 million tonnes or 1.73 million barrels per day (bpd), according to customs data released on Saturday.

Large private integrated refiners have joined smaller independent plants in snapping up lower-priced Russian oil, both the ESPO blend loaded from Russia’s Far East and Urals from European ports.

Oil dips as weaker China economic data offsets IEA demand forecast

The April arrivals were well below the record of 2.26 million bpd reached in March however. China’s overall crude oil imports last month posted a 16% decline from March.

Imports of Saudi oil - mostly consumed by state refiners and mega private plants - totalled 8.46 million tonnes or 2.06 million bpd, the data showed, slightly down from March’s 2.1 million bpd and compared with 2.17 million bpd a year earlier.

Year-to-date imports from Russia rose 26.5% to 32.4 million tonnes, outpacing second-ranked Saudi Arabian imports which grew 2.9% to 31.28 million tonnes.

Chinese banks seize on Russia, oil trade to internationalise yuan

Imports from Malaysia remained elevated at 4.09 million tonnes, not far off March’s 4.56 million tonnes and sharply higher than the 2.165 million tonnes in April of 2022.

To circumvent U.S. sanctions, traders have in the past three years been rebranding Iranian and Venezuelan oil as sourced from Malaysia, Oman or the United Arab Emirates.

China reported zero imports from Iran or Venezuela.

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