China’s crude oil imports from Iran rebounded more than 50 percent in April from March after resolving pricing disputes over term contracts, but shipments fell nearly a quarter from a year ago, with Saudi Arabian supplies helping to plug the gap.
China and India are under Western pressure to cut purchases, since the actions of the world's top buyers of Iranian oil will determine the success of a strategy aimed at crimping Iran's oil revenue to halt Tehran’s controversial nuclear program.
Crude oil imports from Iran fell 23.7 percent in April on the year to 388,034 barrels per day (bpd), Chinese customs data showed on Monday. However, from a month ago, imports were up 53.2 percent after the two countries resolved term contract disputes in late March.
In the first four months of the year, China’s crude imports from Iran were 355,989 bpd, down 31 percent from a year ago.
Still, April's rebound from March may not be fully reflected in the latest customs data because it takes about 22 days to ship oil to China.
Unipec, the trading arm of top Asian refiner China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) , will buy 10 to 20 percent less crude from Iran under an annual contract for 2012 compared with last year, a Chinese industry executive with direct knowledge of the matter has told Reuters.
But an Iranian official said in late April that China had not cut its crude imports in 2012.
The United States has exempted Japan and 10 European nations from financial sanctions because they have significantly cut purchases of Iranian crude oil. China and India have not, however, publicly asked for a waiver and have not been included on the exemption list.
China has been scouring the world for crude to make up for the lost Iranian oil. Its extra imports in April from Saudi Arabia, Angola and Russia more than offset the loss of imports from Iran, the data showed.
China imported 1.07 million bpd of crude oil from top oil exporter Saudi Arabia in April, 14 percent higher than a year earlier and 15 percent higher than 929,906 bpd in March, customs data showed.
Similarly, imports from Angola jumped 41 percent on the year to 919,338 bpd last month and cargoes from Russia rose 20 percent to 448,219 bpd.