Chinese crude imports remained subdued at 9.771mn b/d for June, up around 80,000 b/d on May, but still low enough for Q2’s 9.774mn b/d to be the lowest quarterly figure since Q3 2018. The country’s independent refiners in recent months slashed above-the-counter crude buying due to the loophole (now closed) that allowed them to import record volumes of ‘bitumen blend’ (in reality for the most part extra-heavy Venezuelan crude) whilst avoiding crude import tariffs (MEES, 25 June). Many of the same refiners have now had their crude import quotas cut or suspended for the second half of 2021.

Imports over the first half of the year are now firmly down year-on-year (see table), and indeed on a monthly basis four out of the first six months have been below 2020 levels . This is due in part to subdued Q2 2021 buying, but also to the fact that May, June and July last year saw the three highest Chinese import figures on record as China filled its stocks on a surge in cut-price volumes from Saudi Arabia in particular. China’s June 2020 imports of 13.00mn b/d, including a record 2.16mn b/d from Saudi Arabia (MEES, 31 July 2020), were more than 3.2mn b/d higher than the June 2021 figure. (CONTINUED - 707 WORDS)