China is quietly accelerating purchases of Russian crude at lower prices, according to shipping data and traders who spoke to Reuters, filling the vacuum left by Western buyers away from doing business with the Russians after Ukraine’s February invasion . ,
The move by the world’s biggest oil importer comes a month after openly backing Moscow and cutting Russian supplies for fear of potentially exposing sanctions to its state-owned oil giant.
According to an estimate by Vortexa Analytics, Russian oil marine imports from China will reach about 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) in May, up from 750,000 bpd in the first quarter and 800,000 bpd in 2021.
Unipec, the trading arm of Asia’s largest refiner Sinopec Corp., a unit of China’s defense conglomerate Norinco, is leading the purchase with Zhenhua Oil, according to shipping data, a ship broker seen by Reuters and five traders. a report of.
Livna Shipping Ltd., a Hong Kong-registered company, has recently emerged as a major shipper of Russian oil to China, traders said.
Sinopec declined to comment. Zhenhua and Livna did not respond to requests for comment.
The US, Britain and some other major oil buyers imposed sanctions on Russian oil imports soon after the invasion. The European Union is finalizing a new round of sanctions, including sanctions on Russian oil purchases. Many European refiners have already stopped buying from Russia for fear of violating sanctions or attracting negative publicity.