China spent over $6 billion on Russian energy imports in April

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

China kept buying more energy from Russia, with purchases of oil, gas and coal jumping 75% in April to over $6 billion, even as domestic demand slowed due to a resurgent virus and the US and Europe moved away from purchases.

Imports of Russian liquefied natural gas surged 80% from a year earlier to 463,000 tons, according to Chinese customs data on Friday. That’s despite China’s total imports of the super-chilled fuel dropping by more than a third as lockdowns and other restrictions on industrial activity choked demand.

Crude imports, meanwhile, rose 4% on the year to 6.55 million tons, with Russia again behind only Saudi Arabia as China’s main source of oil.

The surge in prices that accompanied Russia’s invasion of Ukraine boosted the value of China’s purchases of mineral fuels, including coal, to $6.42 billion. It means that 72% of China’s total imports in April from its strategic partner were energy-related.

The volume figures for gas don’t include pipeline imports, which haven’t been reported since the start of the year, but the Power of Siberia link is a major conduit of the fuel to China.

Moreover, Beijing is in discussions with Moscow to replenish its strategic crude stockpiles with cheaper Russian oil, a sign that energy ties between the two are only likely to strengthen as Russia’s westward markets wither due to the war in Ukraine.

Other highlights of commodities trade between China and Russia in April:

  • Coal imports fell 14% on-year to 3.82 million tons as Covid restrictions, milder weather and elevated domestic output reduced demand for the thermal variety
    • But coking coal for the steel industry rose for a third month to 1.71 million tons, more than double last year’s level, after mills bought more on the prospect of enhanced government spending
  • Refined copper imports fell 39% to 18,871 tons
  • Refined nickel imports rose almost threefold to 1,738 tons
  • Aluminum imports rose almost half to 31,218 tons
  • Palladium imports were zero
  • Wheat imports dropped 81% to 2,990 tons

(By Ailing Tan, with assistance from Kathy Chen, Sarah Chen and Winnie Zhu)


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