Russia Now Biggest Crude Supplier to China

East Siberia-Pacific Ocean Pipeline
East-Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline

Published Nov 14, 2017 6:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

Russia was the largest supplier of crude oil to China in 2016, surpassing Saudi Arabia for the first time on an annual basis. The record was set in reverse with China now being Russia's largest destination for crude oil exports, receiving 953,000 b/d, or about 18 percent, of Russia’s total crude oil exports. 

Russian crude oil exports to China have grown steadily since 2010. Russia exports crude oil to China using the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline and pipeline connections through Kazakhstan. Russian ESPO-grade crude oil exported from Russia’s Pacific port of Kozmino can reach Chinese ports quicker than crude oil shipped from the Middle East, allowing Russian crude oil to be shipped in smaller volumes and with more flexible scheduling.

In 2016, more than 80 percent of Russia’s crude oil and condensate exports were seaborne. However, regardless of the ultimate mode of transport, most of Russia’s crude oil exports must traverse Transneft’s pipeline system, either as a direct route to reach bordering countries or to reach Russian ports. Russia’s state-owned Transneft holds a near-monopoly over Russia’s pipeline network, although some smaller volumes of exports are shipped by rail and on vessels that load at independently owned terminals.

Russia exported more than 5.2 million barrels per day (b/d) of crude oil and condensate and more than 2.4 million b/d of petroleum products in 2016, mostly to countries in Europe. Exports of crude oil and petroleum products represented nearly 70 percent of total Russian petroleum liquids production in 2016.

Russia’s oil and natural gas industry is a key component of Russia’s economy, with revenues from oil and natural gas activities, including exports, making up 36 percent of Russia’s federal budget revenues.
Crude oil trade is important to both Russia and Europe: about 70 percent of Russia’s crude oil exports in 2016 went to European countries, particularly the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and Belarus. 

Similarly, Russian imports provided more than one-third of the total crude oil imported to European members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Russia also exports sizeable volumes of petroleum products. According to Eastern Bloc Energy, Russia exported about 1.3 million b/d of fuel oil, 990,000 b/d of diesel, and 120,000 b/d of gasoline in 2016. It exported smaller volumes of liquefied petroleum gas (75,000 b/d) during the same year, according to Clipper Data. Product exports have grown significantly over the past several years and are expected to continue to grow as Russian refineries add capacity to produce more high-quality products.