Despite a slowdown in fuel demand due to the Delta variant, Asian refiners have booked more crude oil from the United States for the fourth quarter, taking advantage of the lower U.S. benchmark prices than last month, traders told Bloomberg on Friday.
Refiners in Asia seek cheaper crude, especially after Saudi Aramco raised last week its official selling prices for crude oil loading for Asia in September to the highest premiums to benchmarks since February 2020. Since other major Middle Eastern producers follow the trends in Saudi pricing, other oil exporters in the Gulf also raised their prices.
Signs have already emerged that some Asian refiners have asked for lower Saudi crude volumes for September.
Some Asian refiners have nominated lower than usual volumes of crude oil from Saudi Arabia as authorities in China and the rest of Asia have reimposed restrictions to fight the Delta variant surge, officials at four refineries told Bloomberg.
Refiners are thus opportunistically seeking lower-priced crude, which the U.S. is happy to supply. U.S. producers of medium heavy are selling their oil at lower prices than last month’s. And Russian oil companies are discounting their Urals grade, according to traders who spoke to Bloomberg last week.
With U.S. crude prices now lower than last month’s, and at significantly lower premiums over the Dubai benchmark, Asian refiners have bought at least 7 million barrels of U.S. crude set to arrive in October and November, according to Bloomberg’s trading sources.
Bharat Petroleum Corporation of India has acquired 2 million barrels of the West Texas Intermediate Midland crude grade scheduled to arrive in October. In Northeast Asia, two refiners have bought 5 million of Mars crude for November arrival, the traders said.
Chinese refiners, however, could reduce crude throughputs due to the renewed travel restrictions. China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation, or Sinopec, is expected to reduce run rates by up to 10 percent at some of its facilities amid new travel restrictions in China to fight a COVID wave, a commodity research analyst told Bloomberg in an interview earlier this week.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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