Sporadic trade by Sinochem, China's national oil trading company, in Russian oil products through its Japanese office faces an uncertain future as the company consolidates its trading, a Sinochem Japan source said.

He said the wholly owned Sinochem subsidiary purchases mostly 5,000-ton spot cargoes of Russian fuel oil and gas oil from Japanese, Canadian and German trading companies. It then sells the cargoes directly to Chinese end- users.However, Sinochem's main office in Beijing does little oil-product business with Russia. A high-ranking products trader in Beijing cited quality- control problems with Russian cargoes.

"Maybe regional Sinochem offices buy, but we do not," the source said, adding that the last Russian cargo purchased through the main office came at least five or six months ago.

Early next year, Sinochem plans to restructure and establish a centralized trading base in Hong Kong. The new base will mean "single-book" trading and is intended to prevent Sinochem's overseas offices from acting independently and competing with each other.

"I'm not so sure what is really happening with (the restructure)" or what it will mean for the Russian products trade, said the Sinochem Japan source.

Another Sinochem source in Beijing estimated that between 100,000 and 150,000 tons of Russian oil products may have moved to China through Sinochem Japan so far this year.

The Sinochem Japan source would not comment on total volume, but described the trade as "still good," and he said his office purchased two Russian gas oil cargoes for September.

"Some of our customers are not so picky," he said, adding that the quality of the Russian products has been "pretty good up until now."

The products are frequently from the Angarsk refinery and shipped out of the Siberian Port of Nakhodka.