BEIJING, July 21 (Reuters) – Angola became the top crude supplier to China in the first half of 2010, overtaking Saudi Arabia, detailed customs data showed, as Chinaâ€™s total crude imports jumped 30 percent in the period.
Iran, under heightened sanctions from the United States and Europe, clawed back to the third spot with sharply rebounding sales in June, though total supplies from Tehran in the first-half remained nearly a third below the year-earlier level.
Chinese traders have repeatedly stressed that prices, not politics, were the main factor behind the significant cut in Iranian oil purchases.
Between January-June, state refiners bought three-quarters more oil from Angola, or roughly 880,000 bpd, as the sweeter and lighter crudes from the West African exporter offered better refining margins relative to the heavier, high-sulphur grades from the Middle East, traders said.
The start-up of PetroChinaâ€™s new 200,000-bpd Qinzhou refinery in southern Guangxi region, which borders Vietnam and is close to the consuming hub of Chinaâ€™s Pearl River Delta, also bolstered the requirement for lighter crudes. [ID:nTOE64D03B]
While cutting back on Iranian shipments, imports from Iraq more than doubled in the first six months, in line with an earlier Reuters report.
China, the worldâ€™s second-largest crude buyer, also boosted imports from Venezuela and Brasil, up 170 percent and 200 percent respectively in the first half, spurred by government-initiated loan-for-oil pacts.
Meantime, crude exports fell by more than a half to 1.136 million tonnes, or just 46,000 bpd, the data showed, with the largest chunk of sales going to North Korea at levels steady from year-ago levels and cuts made mostly to South Korea and the United States.
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Ken Wills)