Asian Refiners to Cut March West African Oil Imports by 13%

Asian refiners will cut their daily imports of West African crude for loading in March by 13 percent from an at least seven-month high in February, according to a survey of six traders and an analysis of loading programs obtained by Bloomberg News.

A total of 62 cargoes amounting to 57.9 million barrels, or 1.87 million barrels a day, will be exported from Angola, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Ghana, Gabon and Cameroon, according to the survey. The volume is less than the 2.15 million barrels a day scheduled for this month, the highest since at least August, and more than the average of 1.65 million barrels for the period from August to February.

Asian refiners have boosted their imports of West African crude since the start of this year as lighter, low-sulfur, or sweeter, blends in the Atlantic Basin became less expensive than heavier, high-sulfur, or sour, grades in the Middle East, as a result of the resumption of Libyan production, refinery closures in Europe and the U.S., and rising tension over Iran, according to Andrey Kryuchenkov, an analyst at VTB Capital in London. Lighter crude yields more lucrative products such as diesel and gasoline.

Purchases of March-loading West African are “only marginally down from February,” Kryuchenkov said by e-mail yesterday. “There is certainly a bit of seasonal lull as well,” he said, referring to the refinery maintenance season in the second quarter in Asia.

Brent-Dubai Spread

The Brent-Dubai exchange for swaps, which measures the European benchmark against the Persian Gulf grade, reached a 14- month low of $2.32 a barrel on Jan. 16, according to data from PVM Oil Associates. It was at $4.28 today. Traders make more profit from shipping West African crude to Asia when the spread between the two contracts shrinks.

Chinese refiners bought 34 cargoes for loading in March, three less than February, the survey showed. China International United Petroleum & Chemical Corp., known as Unipec, cut its purchases by four shipments from this month to 24, including one lot each of Ghana’s Jubilee and Cameroon’s Kole grades.

India will import 15 cargoes for March, down from 19 this month, according to the survey. Indian Oil Corp., the nation’s largest refiner, bought nine shipments, three less than this month, while Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), which owns the world’s largest refining complex, boosted its purchases to four consignments from two.

Indonesia’s state-owned PT Pertamina also doubled its purchases to four cargoes, including two shipments of Nigeria’s benchmark Qua Iboe, the survey showed.

Japan’s Imports

JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp., Japan’s largest refiner, bought two cargoes of Gabon’s Rabi Blend and one shipment of Equatorial Guinea’s new Aseng grade, according to the survey.

Thailand’s PTT Exploration & Production Pcl bought one shipment of Angola’s Dalia crude and SK Innovation Co., South Korea’s biggest refiner, bought 350,000 barrels of Gabon’s Mandji grade, the survey showed.

Qua Iboe (AFCSQUA1) was at a premium of $2.60 a barrel to North Sea Dated Brent yesterday, compared with an average of $2.74 in January, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, plans to export 2.12 million barrels a day of crude next month while Angola will ship 1.61 million barrels, Bloomberg calculations based on loading programs showed.

The following tables show details of planned Asian imports. Most cargoes are for 950,000 to 1 million barrels. All the volumes are in barrels a day.

---------------------------------------------------------------
Countries   Number of Cargoes   Total Volume
            March     February  March       February
China       34        37        1,042,097   1,223,448
India       15        19          453,226     618,966
Taiwan       4         5          122,581     163,793
Indonesia    4         2          125,806      67,241
Japan        3         0           82,258           0
Thailand     1         0           30,645           0
South Korea  1         0           11,290           0
Others*      0         3                0      77,586
---------------------------------------------------------------

Month            Cargoes   Total       Angola        Nigeria
March 2012         62      1,867,903   1,081,452     401,613
February 2012      66      2,151,034   1,357,586     496,552
January 2012       61      1,826,935   1,056,613     461,290
December 2011      47      1,433,387     993,710     279,032
November 2011      49      1,554,500   1,028,500     285,000
October 2011       49      1,507,742     962,581     308,065
September 2011     42      1,344,333     930,167     287,500
August 2011        50      1,536,613     931,774     387,097
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Note:
*Final destinations are not available.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sherry Su in London at lsu23@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net

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