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The United Arab Emirates’ main export crude blend, Murban, has recorded a four-month stretch of selling at a discount to the official selling price of Emirati crude in Asia because of intensifying competition from cheap European and U.S. blends, Reuters reports, citing market data as well as sources from the industry.
The discount ranged between US$0.05 and US$0.40 a barrel for cargoes bound for loading over the first four months of the year. That’s despite a series of cuts in the benchmark price for Emirati crude, Reuters noted, which also stretched over four months.
Usually, this time of the year is a time of higher demand from Asian refiners as they churn out more fuels used in heating during peak demand season. However, there is more light crude coming from the United States as production booms unrestrained, and arbitrage from Europe has opened, Reuters’ Florence Tan notes.
There seems to be an actual oversupply of light crude and this has combined with higher overall prices for Middle Eastern crude because of the cuts agreed in December. The resulting increase in the benchmark Dubai price has made Brent-based blends as well as U.S. ones a lot more attractive to traders and refiners in Asia.
In the immediate term, the UAE’s flagship blend as well as other Middle Eastern blends will likely continue to be pressured as refineries in Asia enter spring maintenance season and demand slumps. Demand for heavy crude, however, is bound to rise further on in the year after maintenance season as refiners prepare for the new lower-emission rules from the International Maritime Organization that come into effect next year.
At the same time, U.S. light crude will continue challenging the market share of Middle Eastern light crude in the observable future, as production continues to grow and prices remain attractive.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.