A combination of lower shipping costs and lower domestic demand will boost U.S. crude oil exports to Asia, Reuters reports, citing sources from the commodity trading and shipping industries.
Freight costs for shipments scheduled to arrive in Asia in late March and April this year are US$0.50 lower per barrel of oil than they were for shipments scheduled to arrive at refineries in December as buyers were in a rush to secure crude ahead of the Iran sanctions that went into effect in early November.
Since the end of October last year, chartering a Very large Crude Carrier from the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port has fallen by some 40 percent to US$5 million, Reuters Eikon data suggests.
U.S. exports of crude will also enjoy the support of a still sizeable discount of West Texas Intermediate to Brent crude, which is close to US$10 a barrel. WTI is among the most popular U.S. light crude grades with Asian buyers. Other attractive grades include Midland and Eagle Ford in the light crude segment, and Mars and Southern Green Canyon in the heavier segment. “There is the potential for Q2 U.S. crude exports to Asia to be higher year-on-year if the WTI/Brent spread remains in the range it has in recent months and with the lower freight rates,” Reuters quoted a Genscape oil analyst, David Arno, as saying.
However, headwinds remain, chief among them the development of trade talks between Washington and Beijing. Chinese traders and refiners are still cautious about buying U.S. crude until the trade problems between the world’s two biggest economies are resolved, but if they are, chances are U.S. crude exports would get an additional boost.
Also, if Washington refuses to extend the Iranian crude oil import waivers it granted in November to eight large buyers—including China and India—they will need an alternative source of crude and it might just be the United States.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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