China May Be Russia’s Biggest Oil Buyer in 2018 on Rosneft Deal

China is on track to become Russia’s biggest crude oil export market within five years after OAO Rosneft, the world’s biggest publicly traded oil producer, agreed to more than double shipments in exchange for loans.

Rosneft said it will deliver at least 37 million metric tons of oil a year, or about 743,000 barrels a day, to China National Petroleum Corp. starting from 2018, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by Bloomberg News.

Rosneft and CNPC signed the agreement when Chinese President Xi Jinping came to Moscow last month on his first state visit abroad. Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expanding energy cooperation and strengthening ties to counter U.S. influence around the world.

“This is a prime example of Russia’s commitment to China,” Andrey Kryuchenkov, a London-based analyst at VTB Capital, said by phone today. “Russia is looking to where the money and the market is.”

Germany was the biggest market for Russian crude in 2011, buying about 700,000 barrels a day, while China was fourth with less than 400,000 barrels a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.

Rosneft agreed to borrow $2 billion from China Development Bank Corp., backed by 25 years of oil supplies, under accords signed March 22 in the Kremlin. The company will also get advance payments for part of the deliveries. That echoes a 2009 deal in which Rosneft borrowed $15 billion from China and OAO Transneft, the Russian oil pipeline operator, got $10 billion as part of contract for an initial 15 million tons of oil a year to the Asian nation.

China Spur

Rosneft agreed to increase oil flows to China through a spur from the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline by as much as 800,000 tons this year from an earlier planned 15 million tons.

The state-owned Russian producer may boost total supplies from the Skovorodino-Mohe spur to 17 million tons next year and 20 million tons a year from 2015 to 2017, according to the agreement. Supplies along that route may reach an annual 30 million tons for the 20 years from 2018.

The deal also calls for exports via other unspecified routes of 7 million to 10 million tons a year for 10 years, starting in 2014.

Separately, Rosneft may supply 9.1 million tons a year for the planned Tianjin refinery, a joint venture in which CNPC will hold 51 percent, according to the document.

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