* China 2011 Saudi oil imports averaged 1.01 mln bpd
* Imports from Iran at 555,200 bpd, +30 pct vs 2010
* Angola maintained 2nd spot, but volume down 21 pct
* Imports from Russia +29 pct; Iraq overtakes Sudan
(Adds imports from Russia, Libya, Sudan; background)
By Chen Aizhu
BEIJING, Jan 21 China's crude oil imports
from Saudi Arabia rose to 1.12 million barrels per day in
December, the fourth-highest on record on a daily basis, Chinese
customs data showed, as the world's top oil exporter pumped just
under the 10 million bpd mark.
Data from the China General Administration of Customs showed
China bought Saudi imports were a touch below November's 1.17
million bpd. The record was 9.56 percent more crude oil from the
kingdom last month versus December 2010 and wound up the whole
of 2011 with 12.6 percent growth at 50.28 million tonnes, or
1.01 million bpd.
That would leave Saudi supplying nearly 20 percent of total
crude oil imports at about 5.08 million bpd into China, the
world's second-largest crude buyer after the United States.
The December Saudi imports were a touch below November's
1.17 million bpd. The record was set in December 2009 at 1.18
mln bpd and the third-highest in July 2009 at 1.15 mln bpd.
The world's top oil exporter was pumping just under record
rates of 10 million bpd earlier this month, Gulf-based sources
said, after a record rate in November at 10.047 mln bpd.
Imports from Iran, China's third-largest supplier, jumped 41
percent in December over a year earlier at 2.43 million tonnes,
or 572,000 bpd.
For the whole of last year, China's Iranian oil imports rose
30 percent to 27.76 million tonnes, or about 555,200 bpd, the
data showed, putting China firmly on the top spot of Iran's
global crude oil clients.
China, however, has scaled back imports in the first two
months of this year as two sides have yet to agree on the main
terms for the 2012 contract.
China's crude import growth last year slowed to nearly a
third of the blistering pace of 2010, as weaker economic growth
likely to drag into the new year weighed on demand.
Imports last year rose 6 percent at an average of about 5.08
Analysts expected China's imports this year to at least
maintain or quicken from last year's pace, bolstered by new
refining capacities started in late 2011 and through this year
and an increasing chance to build stocks.
China may add some 500,000 bpd crude throughput this year
versus last, a Reuters poll found.
China may step up imports to fill tanks, as new depots were
put into use and as oil firms become more willing to accept $100
oil, likely to be a norm for the coming decade, analysts say.\
In December, China also boosted imports from Russia, China's
fourth-largest supplier, by 45 percent over a year earlier at
2.02 million tonnes, and imports in the whole of 2011 was up 29
percent at 19.7 million tonnes, or 394,000 bpd.
The expanded supply from Russia was largely due to the start
just over a year ago of the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline
(ESPO) that pumps some 300,000 bpd oil from Russia to China
under a long-term supply pact between the two countries.
China also brought in some 67,000 bpd crude from Libya in
December after resuming imports the previous month from the
North African producer following a six-month halt due to the
Angola, which retained its spot as China's second-largest
supplier, however shipped in 21 percent less crude for the whole
of 2011 at 623,000 bpd.
Imports from Sudan rose a modest 3 percent last year at
260,000 bpd, overtaken by Iraq as China's sixth-largest
Chinese imports of Iraqi oil gained nearly a quarter last
year at 275,000 bpd, thanks in part to Chinese oil firms'
development of several major oilfields in the post-Saddam
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Ron Popeski)