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By Alex Longley on 1/20/2020

LONDON (Bloomberg) - The U.S.-China trade agreement is set to intensify the battle for the world’s most prized oil market.

China’s imports of U.S. crude may reach 700,000 barrels a day or more this year, estimates from consultants show. That volume, 50% above the previous monthly record, would have put the U.S. among the top 10 suppliers to the Asian nation in the last month for which data is available.

As U.S. exporters look to re-establish their trade with the world’s largest crude importer, American barrels will find themselves in fierce competition with supplies from regions that produce similar quality oil, like West Africa and the North Sea. It’s China’s appetite for that lighter, less sulfurous crude, as well as the possible removal of a 5% tariff, that’s likely to dictate exactly how much U.S. oil flows there.

“If you look at the energy side it should translate into a rebound in Chinese imports of U.S. crude oil,” said Olivier Jakob, managing director of consultant Petromatrix GmbH in Zug, Switzerland. “If they come to realize what is written then a lot of the supply increase from the U.S. is going to go to China this year.”

U.S. exports to China, which surged through July 2018, slumped as trade tensions between the two countries escalated. The Asian nation, which accounted for two-thirds of oil demand growth in 2019, imposed a 5% tariff on U.S. oil from September, making it less economical for refiners. Read more…