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.