China's imports of Iranian oil hit record since 2018 sanctions
China's imports of Iranian crude oil last year hit a record high since the US imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic in 2018 with the aim of bringing the country's oil sales down to zero, Bloomberg reports.
Chinese refiners brushed off the risk of the sanctions to take in 324 million barrels from Iran and Venezuela in 2021, about 53% more than the year before, data from market intelligence firm Kpler cited by the news provider showed.
According to Press TV, it added "That’s the most since 2018, when China took 352 million barrels from the two nations."
According to Braemar and industry consultant Energy Aspects Ltd, Chinese imports of sanctioned crude should stay elevated around current levels early this year.
China's private refiners are main customers of Iran's floating oil cargoes through spot purchases. Crude from Iran stored in tankers offshore Asia is an attractive option given that it can be delivered quickly. There are millions of barrels of crude floating off China and around Singapore and Malaysia that include Iranian oil.
Rising crude prices have incentivized the private refiners, known as teapots, to snap up more oil from Iran and Venezuela without worrying about the risk of the sanctions because they don't have US-based businesses and do not need the American financial system for trade.
Oil markets are closely watching negotiations underway in Vienna between Iran and the remaining parties to an international nuclear agreement for a breakthrough to resume purchases from the country.
Oil Minister Javad Owji has said Iran will return to its pre-sanctions crude production level as soon as the US sanctions are removed. Oil Ministry officials have said they are confident most output could be restored within a month.