China imported record quantities of Russian liquefied natural gas and steelmaking coal in September, as total purchases of energy products topped $50 billion since the invasion of Ukraine pushed Moscow to expand sales to its strategic ally.
Coking coal imports from Russia jumped to 2.5 million tons in September, from about 900,000 tons in the same month last year and 1.9 million tons in August, according to Chinese customs data. LNG sales rose by a third from a year ago to 819,000 tons, despite a 12% decline in China’s overall purchases of the super-chilled fuel. China hasn’t reported imports via pipelines, the main conduit for Russian gas, since the start of the year.
Crude oil imports from Russia were at 7.5 million tons last month, compared with 8.3 million tons in August and 6.1 million tons a year ago, with Saudi Arabia leapfrogging Russia as China’s top supplier.
Total purchases of Russian energy, including oil products, slowed to $7.5 billion last month from a revised record of $8.4 billion in August, although the figure is well-ahead of last year’s $4.7 billion. It brings the total to more than $51 billion in the seven months since the war in Ukraine began. Over the same period in 2021, China’s energy purchases from Russia were $30 billion.
Although import values have been inflated by the global spike in energy prices caused by the war, China is still taking more volumes, sometimes at discounted rates, from Russia. Moscow for its part needs to find a home for exports that are being shunned by much of the rest of the world as punishment for the invasion. A new package of European Union sanctions that will deprive oil tankers of insurance and other services is due to take effect on Dec. 5.
(By Ailing Tan)