Chinese oil imports reach new highs

Capitalising on low prices, China is buying near-record amounts of Saudi oil.

Crude imports rose 24.4% in February to 31.8m metric tons, equivalent to around eight million barrels per day, according to data from China's General Administration of Customs.

China's government is keen to take advantage of a prolonged period of low oil prices, as are local and regional refining operations. Despite growth slowing this year it remains the world's second-largest consumer of energy.

Saudi Arabia, whose massive output is contributing to low global prices, is solidifying its lead as China's top supplier, exporting nearly 1.38m barrels per day in February, very close to the 1.39m record set in the same month in 2012. Russia and Angola take the second and third spots respectively in exports to the region.

Other countries closer to home are also serving the smaller producers that lack the scale of China's majors. 'Teapot' refineries are buying increasing amounts of crude from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam as they seek to capitalise on low oil prices and the nation's healthy automotive market.

Song Yen Ling, an analyst at Platts China Oil Analytics, said crude imports grew 8.8% in 2015 and expects a further increase of another 6% this year. Diesel imports surged to 33,331 tons in February, while gasoline imports rose by a meteoric 117% to 864,152 tons during the same period.