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Any sizeable oil and gas contract awards in the Gulf are now near-guaranteed to have Chinese firms competing vehemently to secure assets, and as often as not doing so successfully. As a case in point, March and April saw high profile awards in Abu Dhabi and Iraq respectively. Yet a tendency to enter into non-operating partnerships with western IOCs means the extent of Chinese participation often slips under the radar.
Traditionally China has been viewed primarily as merely a taker of Middle Eastern crude, a role which it certainly plays with gusto. It was the single largest importer of Iranian oil last year, was number two for Iraq (behind India) and climbed from number three to number two spot for Saudi Arabia (see chart 3). It is also among the largest buyers of volumes from other major regional producers including Kuwait and the UAE.
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