China's Crude Oil Imports Surge to Record High

By Jason Simpkins

China’s crude oil imports climbed 39% to a record high last month, and Saudi Arabia was the nation’s largest supplier. China’s oil imports have more than tripled in the last five years, and that amount is only going to increase as the world’s second-largest energy consumer tries to keep pace with its growing social, political, and economic needs.

Saudi Arabia shipped 2.33 million metric tons of crude oil (548,677 barrels per day) to China in July, a whopping 57% increase from a year ago, according to the Customs General Administration in Beijing. Angola, China’s second largest oil supplier, provided 2.2 million tons, a 28% increase from last year. Oman, Russia, and Iran rounded out the list of China’s top five suppliers, which together contributed a total of 4.07 million tons of crude oil.

China imported 14.83 million tons of crude last month, bringing its seven-month total to 96.27 million tons. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has revised its estimate for Chinese oil demand in 2007 to 7.6 million barrels per day, a year-over-year increase of 5.7%. The IEA also said that China's 2008 demand is expected to rise another 5.8%, to 8.0 million barrels per day.

Last month, the Chinese state oil giant CNOOC won permission to search for oil in part of Somalia, underscoring China’s willingness to brave Africa’s most volatile regions in its hunt for natural resources. China will also be making forays into Venezuela. The China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) will drill in oilfields in the area of the Zumano site. According to Venezuelan data, the site holds 400 million barrels of light and heavy crude oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of gas.