China's 2014 Iran Oil Imports Up 28%

China's 2014 Iran Oil Imports Up 28%China's 2014 Iran Oil Imports Up 28%

China's crude oil imports from Iran jumped by nearly 30 percent last year to their highest average level since 2011, customs data showed on Friday, as Iran's largest oil client boosted shipments after an interim deal eased sanctions on Tehran.

Last year, China lifted 27.5 million tons of Iranian crude and condensate, an increase of 28.3 percent over 2013, the customs data showed. That put its daily average at 549,250 bpd, almost even with the 555,000 bpd imported in 2011 before the United States and the European Union tightened sanctions, Reuters reported.

The December imports from Iran rose 19.1 percent from a year ago to 604,740 bpd, and were up 17 percent from November. China, Iran's largest buyer, also recorded exporting 320,000 tons, or 6,400 bpd, of crude to Iran in 2014, including 240,000 tons in December.

The exported volumes likely have to do with the movement of crude in and out of storage that sources with knowledge of the matter said state-owned Iranian oil company is leasing in the northeast Chinese port of Dalian. Iran has made at least two deliveries of crude from the Dalian site to India and one to South Korea.

China's crude imports from top exporter Saudi Arabia were down 7.9 percent in 2014 from the previous year to 993,320 bpd. Exports from Saudi Arabia, which remains the biggest supplier, totaled 49.67 million tons in 2014 or 997,000 barrels a day, the least since 2010. The kingdom’s share of China’s crude purchases dropped to 16 percent from 19 percent in 2013.

Saudi Arabia reduced its official selling prices for November crude sales to Asia to the lowest since 2008 as it sought to defend market share in the fastest-growing demand region. China’s imports from the kingdom climbed 13 percent in December from the previous month, the first gain since September.

Imports from Russia came in at 662,140 bpd, up 36 percent from 2013. Russia grew to become China's third-largest crude supplier last year, behind Saudi Arabia and Angola. China bought a record volume of crude from Russia last year.

China’s imports from its northern neighbor increased by 36 percent in 2014, the fastest pace ever, to 33.1 million metric tons, according to General Administration of Customs data cited by Bloomberg.

The US and its allies suspect that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at making a weapon. Iran says its enrichment activities are for peaceful civilian purposes.

Western sanctions against the OPEC member were eased in a late-2013 deal that allowed it to export about 1 million barrels per day (bpd) amid negotiations over its nuclear program. The lighter sanctions prompted both China and India to raise crude buys from Iran, especially over the first half of 2014.

Talks between Iran and six powers - the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany - to resolve the stand-off over Tehran's nuclear program will resume next month after limited progress earlier this month.