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Saudi retains top spot for China crude imports in Aug; Iran sales plunge

BEIJING/SINGAPORE, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia held on to its spot as China's largest supplier of crude in August for the second straight month, official customs data showed on Wednesday, although this month's attack on Saudi oil processing facilities may end the run. Saudi oil arrivals in August in China, the worlds biggest oil importer, reached 7.79 million tonnes, or 1.83 million barrels per day (bpd), data from the General Administration of Customs showed, compared with 6.99 million tonnes in July and nearly double the 4.134 million tonnes level a year earlier. Amid sanctions by the United States on Tehran and rising Middle East tensions, China's oil imports from Iran were 787,657 tonnes, the data showed, down from July's 926,119 tonnes and far below 3.28 million tonnes of the year-ago period. Most of the August arrivals were discharged at Jinzhou and Tianjin ports in China's northeast, where China has state reserve and commercial tanks, indicating volumes continuing to flow into the country's strategic storage sites, according to Refinitiv Oil Research. China said days after the drone attack on Saudi oil facilities that knocked out half the output of the world's top oil exporter that the nation's crude reserves, including stocks held at strategic petroleum storage sites and commercial inventories, are sufficient to cover 80 days of imports, just short of a 90-day target. Imports from Venezuela in August were at 1.45 million tonnes, customs data showed, double the 703,742 tonnes in July, but still down 18.6% from 1.78 million tonnes a year earlier. All the August arrivals from Venezuela were loaded in July, said Emma Li, analyst at Refinitiv Oil Research, as China National Petroleum Corp, a leading buyer of the South American crude, halted loadings in August and September amid concerns over potential risk from secondary U.S. sanctions. Imports of U.S. crude oil reached 1.01 million tonnes last month, versus 1.5 million tonnes in July, with volumes likely to more than halve in September as Beijing started levying a 5% tariff as the trade war with the United States escalated. Imports from Russia, China's No.2 supplier for August, reached 6.02 million tonnes, up from 5.673 million tonnes in July and 5.7 million tonnes in August last year. Below lists the details of imports by key suppliers.

Country Aug y/y Jan-Aug(to y/y pct(tonnes) pct nnes) change

change

Saudi 7,788,824 88.4 52,543,384 51.6

Arabia

Russia 6,022,349 5.6 49,386,752 12.9Iraq 4,507,144 12.9 31,527,549 10.3Angola 3,598,331 -11.6 32,798,342 4.5Oman 2,595,009 -8.7 20,471,200 -5.7Venezuel 1,449,505 -18.6 10,817,145 -14.2

a

USA 1,013,965 -9.9 4,665,271 -58Iran 787,657 -76 12,744,782 -43

(Reporting by Muyu Xu in Beijing and Chen Aizhu in Singapore; Editing by Tom Hogue and Muralikumar Anantharaman)