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Asia’s Appetite For U.S. Sour Crude Grows Amid Falling Prices

Refiners in Asia are looking to buy more U.S. sour crude as the Mars grade’s premiums over the Dubai benchmark fell to a two-week low, traders told Reuters on Tuesday.  

The higher interest in U.S. sour crudes, especially Mars and Southern Green Canyon, means that American grades could be displacing some volumes of the popular sour grades from the Middle East, such as Oman’s, Upper Zakum from the UAE, or Basrah Heavy from Iraq, according to traders.

Currently, the Mars grade for delivery in northern Asia in November and December is priced at a $1.30 a barrel premium over Dubai, much lower than the premium of more than $2 per barrel just two weeks ago, the trade sources told Reuters.

The U.S. crude benchmark, WTI Crude, has also seen a widening in its discount to Brent Crude in recent days, which makes U.S. crude grades more favorable to buy.

“The arbitrage is wide open,” a trader based in Singapore told Reuters. 

The prices of U.S. sour crudes are expected to fall further after the U.S. Department of Energy said on Monday that it plans to sell up to 20 million crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), with deliveries to take place in Q4 2021. This is the largest sale from the SPR in seven years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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 earlier this month.

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.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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