Asian buyers shift attention back to Saudi oil, finds new Thomson Reuters data

According to the findings, crude exports declined marginally in February despite production falling by 280,000 bpd. OPEC pushed 24 million bpd in international markets, only 30,000 bpd lower from our revised aggregate of 24.03 million bpd for January.

Exports remain at multi-year highs as the market share battle wages on. Sales increased from Venezuela, Nigeria, Angola, Algeria, Ecuador and Qatar, with the African producers adding 340,000 bpd m-o-m, while Latin American members exported 280,000 bpd more m-o-m with Venezuela accounting for 69% of the increase.

Nadim Najjar, managing director, MENA, Thomson Reuters, said, “Our bottom up analysis shows that the largest Asian buyers (China, India, Japan and South Korea) shifted their attention back to Saudi Arabian crude oil, importing less from other OPEC members. China in particular was the only country that reduced its share of Saudi crude from 34% in January to 30% in February as emphasis was given to Iraqi crude and crude from other non-Middle East members like Venezuela and non-OPEC crudes such as Russian ESPO.”

February exports have increased 1.12 million bpd y-o-y as Iran increases oil exports following the sanction lift, while other core Middle Eastern producers have pushed output to multi-year highs leaving a very thin spare capacity. Yearly export growth for January stood at 950,000 bpd. We expect OPEC exports to remain strong as refinery maintenance wraps up and road fuel demand increases for the summer driving season.

OPEC exports to Africa increased by 46 per cent to 0.69 million bpd, while exports to Asian buyers fell by 14.3% to 15.43 million bpd. European imports from the organisation fell by 21.4 per cent to 2.2 million bpd and exports to the Americas slowed by 5.85 per cent, to 3.59 million bpd as demand from refineries declines due to ongoing maintenance. Our oil flows tracking indicates that there is 63.35 million bbls with unknown destination, likely still on route for their final destination, with the largest part expected to reach Asian countries in the following days.

Saudi exports softened in February in line with lower crude output. The Kingdom exported 7.8 million bpd, 60,000 bpd lower compared to 7.86 million bpd in January. Flows to Africa and Europe surged by 96 per cent and 159 per cent respectively to 0.24 million bpd and 0.18 million bpd. Exports towards the Americas declined by 31 per cent to 0.85 million bpd, while Asian buying remained very strong at 5.40 million bpd.

Iraq exported 3.35 million bpd in February, down by 132,000 bpd compared to January as the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline remains offline due to sabotage, with repair work still ongoing. Basrah loadings during February rose by 42,000 bpd compared to January.

Iranian exports slowed significantly in February as Asian buyers reduced their intake. The Islamic Republic exported 1.41 million bpd in February, 300,000 lower compared to January’s multi-year high of 1.71 million bpd. Iran has not priced its crude aggressively for Asian buyers, as it did for European customers, allowing Saudi Arabia to maintain its market share dominance.

Source: CPI Financial