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China's June fuel oil imports at year-to-date high on firm Russian volumes

(Reuters) - China's June fuel oil imports hit the highest level for a month so far in 2023, buoyed by firm purchases of Russian oil, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Thursday.

Total fuel oil imports in June were at 2.70 million metric tons, up 5% from May and more than triple from June 2022.

The monthly imports were also at a decade-high again, after easing slightly in May, the data showed. China's independent refiners have boosted purchases of fuel oil to be used as a refinery feedstock this year, particularly discounted barrels of Russian fuel oil, including indirect imports that have passed through blending hub Malaysia.

Direct imports from Russia were at 1.42 million metric tons in June, easing from a record high of 1.55 million metric tons in May, but imports from blending hub Malaysia rose by more than 85% in June month-on-month to about 989,000 metric tons.

In the first half of 2023, total direct fuel oil imports from Russia more than tripled compared to the same period last year, while total imports from Malaysia more than quadrupled, the data showed.  

China's exports of low-sulfur marine fuels, measured mostly by sales from bonded storage for vessels plying international routes, totaled 1.93 million metric tons in June, up 4% from


The uptick came despite lower sales for bunkering across key refueling hubs in June, including Singapore and the UAE's Fujairah.

The table below shows China's fuel oil imports and exports in metric tons. The exports section largely captures China's low-sulfur oil bunkering sales along its coast.

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