That both Saudi Arabia and Russia are aggressively targeting China is no surprise given the scale of the prize on offer. China overtook the US as the world’s largest crude importer in 2016 (MEES, 1 July 2016) due to a combination of rapidly growing demand and dwindling production. This dynamic remains unchanged. Having imported a record 9.25mn b/d in 2018, imports have been above 10mn b/d since November although may dip below this marker in mid-2019 given previous seasonal trends.

When it comes to the two countries’ overall crude export volumes there is no contest. Russia exported 5.15mn b/d in 2018, while Saudi Arabian exports averaged 7.37mn b/d (MEES, 22 February). Asia is the dominant marketplace for Saudi Arabia, while Russia focuses more on Europe (shipping around 3mn b/d there on average). The exception is China, which has emerged as by far the largest buyer of Russian crude over the past five years. (CONTINUED - 1221 WORDS)