Asia’s Oil Imports Hit An 8-Month High In January

By Tsvetana Paraskova of OilPrice.com

Strong buying from China and India at the end of last year pushed Asia’s crude oil imports in January 2024 to the highest level in eight months, data compiled by LSEG Oil Research showed on Thursday.  

Crude cargo arrivals in Asia, the prized oil-importing region and the world’s biggest rose to 28.57 million barrels per day (bpd) in January 2024, up from 27.03 million bpd in December 2023, per the data reported by Reuters columnist Clyde Russell.  

Chinese crude imports were estimated at slightly lower levels compared to December, but much higher than in January 2023. India, for its part, is likely to have imported a record high volume of crude last month amid strong economic growth and rising fuel margins in Asia.

China, the world’s biggest crude oil importer, saw arrivals at 11.31 million bpd in January, just below the 11.48 million bpd imports in December, according to LSEG data. Last month’s imports into China were more than 1 million bpd higher than the 10.24 million bpd imports in January 2023.

China has boosted crude purchases since October, when oil prices started sliding from the 2023-year of over $95 a barrel in September, to take advantage of the lower prices.

Considering the time lag of around two months between crude purchases and nominations and the arrival of the crude in China, it could be concluded that Chinese refiners have continued to buy more oil when prices were falling.

China has also allocated a massive batch of crude oil import quotas to refiners, issuing full-year quotas to some. The early allocation of a large volume of import allowances would help refiners better plan their crude purchases in 2024, according to analysts. 

India, the world’s third-largest crude importer and Asia’s second-biggest, is estimated to have imported a record-high 5.33 million bpd of crude in January, up from 4.65 million bpd in December, per LSEG vessel-tracking data. Russia kept its top spot as India’s largest crude supplier, slightly ahead of second-placed Iraq.

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