The diversions have made Urals prices stronger at the end of December, compared with a month before, according to FGE. The grade turned about 60 cents a barrel costlier relative to London’s Brent crude, the benchmark for sales of the variety, the industry consultant said.

Pipeline Flows

China imports the bulk of Russian oil via inland pipes and seaborne shipments from the eastern ports of Kozmino, De-Kastri and Prigorodnoye. A second conduit between the two countries began operations on New Year’s Day, doubling China’s ESPO crude import capacity to 30 million tons annually, or about 600,000 barrels a day. The two lines run parallel to each other between Mohe at the border and Daqing in northeast Heilongjiang Province.

The Asian nation has also sought to expand its energy relationship with Russia. CEFC China Energy Co., a firm that’s grown from a small local trader to a global deal-making juggernaut, in November sold its first cargo of Russian crude after buying a $9 billion stake in Rosneft Oil Co. last year. The Russian energy giant will supply the Shanghai-based company with as much as 60.8 million tons, including the Urals, ESPO and Sokol grades, over five years.

Russia supplied 5.12 million tons of crude to China in November, official customs data show, the equivalent of about 1.3 million barrels per day. It also aims to start natural gas sales via the Power of Siberia pipeline by December 2019.