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Saudi Arabia Oil Exports To U.S. Nosedive

Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports to U.S. are falling sharply, with shipments so far this month at just 1.6 million barrels, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, versus 5.75 million barrels a year ago.

For the whole of January, Saudi Arabia exported just 2.69 million barrels of crude to the United States. The decline follows Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut its crude oil production—primarily heavy crude grades—by more than it agreed to at the December OPEC+ meeting as it seeks higher oil prices.

One analyst told Bloomberg oil exports from the Kingdom to U.S. refiners could even fall to zero but that was unlikely to happen.

"We could see Saudi oil imports declining to zero into the U.S. Gulf Coast,” Andy Lipow from Lipow Oil Associates said. “OPEC and non-OPEC members feel prices are too low, and they will do what it takes to put the market back in balance."

Yet refiners from the U.S. West Coast have a limited choice of suppliers, so some Saudi oil will continue going there, at least.

While shipments to the United States fall, however, the amount of Saudi oil going to China will increase this year, Reuters reported earlier this week, citing an unnamed source in the know.

Last year, Saudi shipments of crude to China averaged 1 million bpd but this year this may rise to 1.5 million bpd by the end of the first quarter as the Saudis aggressively seek a larger market share in the world’s second-largest oil consumer, which, unlike the United States, has not got abundant local production and has to rely on imports to satisfy demand.

Total Saudi oil exports next month are slated to fall further to 7 million bpd, with production cuts by the Kingdom at half a million barrels daily more than their quota, seen at 9.8 million bpd next month.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on February 28 2019 said:
    A decline of Saudi oil exports to the United States is no loss to Saudi Arabia as it ships more of its oil to the Asia-Pacific region particularly China. However, the Saudi move aims at reducing US crude oil inventory.

    Saudi Arabia aims to enhance its oil market share in China which is the world’s largest importer of crude oil even challenging Russia for the top spot there.

    Saudi Arabia has already declared that it will cut its production and exports in March beyond the OPEC+ cuts in order to push oil prices beyond $80 a barrel which is the price Saudi Arabia needs to balance its 2019 budget.

    The Saudis are getting irritated by President Trump tweeting again about high global oil prices and asking OPEC+ to reconsider its oil production cut deal.

    In fact, in an apparent rebuke of President Trump, Saudi oil minister Khalid Al-Falih said that reducing the glut in the market remains the main goal for OPEC+, adding that the kingdom plans further curbs to output and exports in March and even considering extending the production cuts beyond June if deemed necessary.

    The fact that President Trump is asking OPEC to reduce the cuts if not eliminate them altogether at a time the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) is claiming that US oil production has hit 12 million barrels a day (mbd) and also claiming rising US crude oil inventories means that the global oil market is not buying these claims.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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