China imported 12.08 million bpd of crude oil in July 2020, according to official customs data, which was lower than the record-breaking import rate in June but 25 percent higher than the average for July 2019.
The official data confirms OilX’s report released earlier this week, which said July imports were 3 percent below the June average. The increase on an annual basis came because a lot of cheap oil bought in April when prices were at their lowest only now arrived at Chinese ports and some delayed oil cargoes cleared customs only last month, Reuters noted.
China has been the focus of attention for oil exporters as a weathervane of global demand since the country is the largest importer of crude oil in the world. While imports surged during the pandemic, there has been a worry that this surge will begin slowing down as China fills up its storage space, and demand for fuels in Asia remained stagnant.
China’s oil imports over the first half of the year averaged 10.78 million bpd, up by 10 percent on the year, despite the pandemic. What’s perhaps more interesting is that China’s oil imports from the U.S. rose, according to a Refinitiv analyst, to as much as 5 million tons, which is equal to more than 1 million bpd.
China undertook to purchase $25.3 billion in U.S. energy products this year as part of the trade deal inked by the two countries earlier this year, but as of June, it had only bought some five 5 percent of that, or $1.29 billion worth of U.S. energy products, including crude oil, LNG, and metallurgical coal.
Data from OilX released earlier this week also pointed to a solid increase in U.S. crude oil imports into China but, the analytics firm noted, such high volumes of imports from the U.S. are unlikely to be sustainable because of politics and the higher oil prices that may affect China’s future purchases.