Increased U.S. crude oil exports to Asia, supported by a wide WTI-Brent spread, are eating into Asian market shares of OPEC and Russia, the cartel’s ally in the production cut pact.
The United States is expected to export 2.3 million bpd of crude oil in June, including 1.3 million bpd bound for Asia, according to estimates by a senior executive at a U.S. oil exporter who spoke to Reuters.
U.S. crude exports hit a record high 2.566 million bpd in the second week of May, EIA data shows.
The record-high U.S. oil production and the emerging constraints in the takeaway capacity has pushed WTI Crude to the widest discount to Brent Crude in three years—at around $9 a barrel, while Brent prices have been supported by geopolitical concerns of possible supply disruptions from the Middle East and plunging production in Venezuela.
Asian refiners have seized the opportunity to boost the cheaper U.S. crude oil imports and are cutting some pricier imports from the Middle East, particularly after Saudi Arabia’s recent pricing policies that raised prices for the Asian markets.
“We’re diversifying a lot to other regions. If Saudi Aramco still doesn’t reduce prices next month and ADNOC [Abu Dhabi National Oil Company] follows, we will increase our U.S. crude purchases,” a Southeast Asian oil buyer told Reuters. Related: Maduro Vows To Double Oil Production With Help From OPEC
The biggest refiner in Asia—China’s Sinopec—is a case in point of how U.S. oil is snatching market share from both Saudi Arabia and Russia. Sinopec is said to be slashing by 40 percent its imports from Saudi Arabia in June for a second month running, because of unjustifiably high prices from the Kingdom.
At the same time, Sinopec will raise its U.S. oil imports to a record-high next month, two sources told Reuters last week. Unipec, Sinopec’s trading arm, has bought 16 million barrels—equal to around 533,000 bpd—of U.S. crude oil for June loading after the Chinese government encouraged it to buy more U.S. oil.
“It is just business, and it was mainly to do with wide Brent/WTI spread,” a Unipec source told Platts last week, adding that the company planned to continue buying such large volumes going forward.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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