China's crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia are likely to rise about 11 percent next year, faster than this year's growth rate, as refiners lift output in anticipation of an economic recovery and an increase in fuel demand, industry officials said.
China, the world's second-largest crude consumer, is expected to buy about 1.17 million barrels per day (bpd) of Saudi oil next year, 120,000 bpd more than this year's contracted amount. The figures are based on estimates by industry sources with direct knowledge of the supply situation.
China, which imports about 5.3 million bpd of crude a year, is Saudi Arabia's third largest customer after the United States and Japan. In the year to October, imports from Saudi grew 8.6 percent on the year to 1.06 million bpd, compared to growth of 12.6 percent in 2011.
Most Asian buyers are being forced to rework import plans to factor in a cut in purchases from OPEC member Iran due to tightening Western sanctions. China, Iran's top trading partner, has cut imports by 22.2 percent in the January-October period from a year earlier.
China sees Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, as a strategic partner capable of providing stable supplies, and the state energy companies of both nations are in a $10 billion joint venture to build a 400,000-bpd refinery on Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coast.