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Europe Tapped OPEC Supply to Replace Lost Libyan Crude, IEA Says

European refineries increased imports of crude from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries last year to make up for the loss of Libyan barrels, the International Energy Agency said.

The loss of Libyan exports hit the region’s refiners “far harder than elsewhere,” the Paris-based adviser said in its monthly report today. European members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development imported more than 1.1 million barrels a day of Libya’s total 1.3 million barrels a day of crude exports before the civil war broke out in the north African nation, the agency said.

“To deal with these extra constraints European refiners turned to OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Iraq and Angola to fill the gap by increasing supplies of many crudes already widely used within the region,” the IEA said in its report.

OECD Europe imported a combined 520,000 barrels a day of extra crude from OPEC from April to December, based on a comparison of incremental supplies, according to the report. Saudi Arabia provided 200,000 barrels a day, while Nigeria, Iraq and Angola contributed 170,000, 90,000 and 60,000 barrels a day respectively.

“Incremental Nigerian and Angolan supplies were likely light, low-sulfur grades such as Bonny Light, Qua Iboe and Girassol but these were not imported in quantities sufficient to replace light Libyan streams,” according to the report.

The scarcity of light, sweet crudes also led to unexpected “long-haul” non-OPEC exports, the agency said. By the end of last year, 80,000 barrels a day of Colombian Cusiana crude was exported to Europe, partly because the release of emergency stockpiles by the IEA members “displaced other sweet crudes from the U.S. Gulf crude slate which were then shipped to Europe,” according to the report.

“Despite the arrival of these alternative supplies, OECD Europe imported on average 150,000 barrels a day less crude in 2011 than in 2010,” the agency said.

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