Saudi Aramco looks to become China’s biggest crude supplier

Saudi Aramco’s crude supply deals with China come as Beijing looks to reduce its reliance on US crude imports amid a trade war with Washington. Above, Aramco’s Abqaiq oil facility. (Reuters)
Updated 28 November 2018
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Saudi Aramco looks to become China’s biggest crude supplier

  • New supply contracts make it very likely that Saudi Aramco next year will become China’s largest supplier
  • Russia currently accounts for the lion’s share of China’s oil imports, supplying some $23.7 billion worth of crude last year

LONDON: Saudi Aramco is moving closer to becoming China’s largest supplier after striking five new crude supply deals with Beijing.
It will help to take the total volume to 1.67 million barrels per day (bpd).
“The new supply contracts make it very likely that Saudi Aramco next year will become China’s largest supplier, a position it also held from 2006 until 2016,” the Saudi oil company said in a statement.
Russia currently accounts for the lion’s share of China’s oil imports, supplying some $23.7 billion worth of crude last year, or 14.6 percent of its total oil imports.
Top Aramco officials this month attended the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai.
The delegation included Ahmed Al-Khunaini, manager of Saudi Aramco’s Crude Oil Sales and Marketing Department, and Anwar Al-Hejazi, Aramco Asia president.
Aramco earlier agreed a crude oil supply agreement with Zhejiang Petroleum and Chemical Co. (ZPC) on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Petroleum Conference (APPEC) in Singapore.
“Large, integrated crude-to-chemical projects like ZPC and Hengli are the future of China’s downstream industry and I am excited Saudi Aramco will be part of their success story,” said Saudi Aramco Senior Vice President Abdulaziz Al-Judaimi.
The new supply agreements are the result of Aramco’s marketing efforts that focus on customer diversification, strategic relationships, and tapping regional demand previously not supplied by Saudi Aramco, the national oil company said.
They are an important part of diversifying Saudi Aramco’s customer base and capturing a large share of China’s future incremental oil demand, which will increasingly come from private refiners.
Annual economic growth of more than 6 percent is supporting demand for oil imports in China as the country adds more refining and petrochemical capacity.
Beijing is also seeking to reduce its reliance on US crude imports amid a trade war with Washington, analysts say.
“Chinese buyers, anticipating that crude and LNG could go on the list if tensions escalate further, are looking to alternative sources,” Richard Mallinson, co-founder of London consultancy Energy Aspects, told Arab News in August.
OPEC already provides 56 percent of China’s oil imports, according to the International Energy Agency.
China’s crude imports grew year on year during the third quarter of 2018 according to data from Bloomberg NEF, despite a fall in imports coming from Iran.
China imported nearly 10 million barrels of oil per day last month.


Oil prices climb on improving US demand signs, OPEC agrees to meeting date

Updated 55 min 20 sec ago
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Oil prices climb on improving US demand signs, OPEC agrees to meeting date

  • After swelling to near two-year highs, US crude stocks fell by 3.1 million barrels last week
  • Members of the OPEC agreed to meet on July 1

TOKYO: Oil prices rose nearly 2 percent on Thursday on signs of improving demand in the United States, the world’s biggest crude consumer, and as OPEC and other producers finally agreed to a date for a meeting to discuss output cuts.
Brent crude futures rose $1.13, or 1.8 percent, to $62.95 a barrel at 0611 GMT. They dropped 0.5 percent on Wednesday.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 90 cents, or 1.7 percent, at $54.66 a barrel. WTI fell 0.26 percent in the previous session.
“It’s a very mixed bag of factors. In the US (oil) demand is likely to be picking up into summer and the OPEC meeting looks like there’s going to be an extension or even more cuts is a possibility,” said Phin Zeibell, senior economist at National Australia Bank.
After swelling to near two-year highs, US crude stocks fell by 3.1 million barrels last week, compared with analyst expectations for a draw of 1.1 million barrels, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.
Refined products also posted surprise drawdowns due to a rise as gasoline demand ticked higher on a weekly basis and surged 6.5 percent from a year ago.
Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to meet on July 1, followed by a meeting with non-OPEC allies on July 2, after weeks of wrangling over dates.
OPEC and its allies will discuss whether to extend a deal on cutting 1.2 million barrels per day of production that runs out this month.
Momentum for an agreement appeared to be building as the United Arab Emirates’ energy minister told Al-Bayan newspaper that an extension is “logical and reasonable.”
Expectations the US Federal Reserve could cut interest rates at its next meeting and confirmation that the chief US trade negotiator will meet his Chinese counterpart before a meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping next week are also supporting markets.
“Fresh stimulus from the largest economies will greatly improve the demand side argument. A positive outcome with the US — China would be icing on the cake,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at brokers OANDA.
Tensions remain high in the Middle East after last week’s tanker attacks, which boosted oil prices. Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted, with Washington blaming Tehran, which has denied any role.
In the latest escalation, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have shot down a US “spy” drone in the southern province of Hormozgan, the Guards’ news website Sepah News said on Thursday.
“The geopolitical side is the wild card and can’t be predicted, not just the Iran concerns but also the trade meeting between Trump and Xi,” said Zeibell, adding “we expect to see an improvement in oil prices over the next month or two.”