China's crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia nearly doubled in May from a year earlier to all-time high as refineries snapped up cheap fuel, while the kingdom retained its position as the top supplier to the world's biggest oil buyer.

Arrivals from Saudi last month reached 9.165 million tonnes, or 2.16 million bbl/d, up about 95% from 1.11 million bbl/d in May 2019 and up 71% from 1.26 million bbl/d in April, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

Chinese refineries have cranked up throughput to meet a recovery in fuel demand, but have also been increasing crude storage to take advantage of cheap prices after the coronavirus pandemic roiled global demand.

Energy consultancy Kpler estimated China's crude storage has reached an all-time high of 782 million barrels, with the country's total capacity 61% full. 

China's overall crude oil imports jumped 19.2% in May from a year earlier to the highest monthly level on record, data released earlier this month showed, as demand for fuel recovered strongly after the easing of coronavirus curbs.

In May, Chinese refineries received their first crude cargo from the U.S. since November, of around 550,000 tonnes, the customs data released late on June 25 showed.

China is set to import a record amount of U.S. crude oil in July, Refinitiv data showed, as cargoes bought by bargain hunters during the depths of the price rout in April get delivered.

Russian shipments last month rose to 7.71 million tonnes, or 1.82 million bbl/d, up from 1.75 million bbl/d in April and 1.5 million bbl/d over same period last year. 

Amid tight U.S. sanctions, China shied away from imports from Venezuela and shipments from Iran were near record lows, data showed.

Source: Reuters

China Oil Imports from Key Suppliers

 Country  May (tonnes)  y/y % change  Jan-May (tonnes) y/y % change
 Saudi Arabia  9,164,983  94.9%  36,276,523 20.8%
 Russia  7,707,716  21.3%  35,983,837 17.8%
 Iraq  6,962,504  54.7%  27,178,178 41.5%
 Oman  3,243,765  -1.8%  15,335,328 12.4%
 Angola  2,926,383  -21.4% 16,633,435  -20%
Malaysia 1,006,532 -27% 7,210,039 120%
Iran 256,813 -76% 1,006,532 -90%
 U.S. 549,839 -30% 549,839 -59.2%
Venezuela 0 0