Nigeria Said to Have 21 Crude Cargoes for February Still Unsold

At least 21 Nigerian crude cargoes for loading in February, or 31 percent, remain unsold because of reduced European refining margins and rising U.S. shale oil output, said three traders who participate in the market.

That’s more than normal for this stage of the month, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is confidential. Unsold grades for export next month include six lots of Qua Iboe, four Brass, three Forcados, two each of Bonny Light, Erha and Usan grade and one of Abo and Yoho, the people said.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, plans to cut exports in February to 67 cargoes totaling 2.19 million barrels a day, compared with 75 shipments this month, according to shipping schedules obtained by Bloomberg News. U.S. oil production exceeded 7 million barrels a day for the first time since March 1993, Energy Department data show.

Sales of Nigerian crude to the U.S. are set to fall in 2012 to the lowest in 27 years. The U.S. imported an average 422,550 barrels a day in the first 10 months of last year. That would be the least since 1985, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

European margins have fluctuated between minus 4 euros ($5) a metric ton and zero this month after averaging 14 euros last month and 29 euros in November, according to data from French refining group, Union Francaise des Industries Petrolieres, which represents refiners in the country including Total SA and Exxon Mobil Corp.

Qua Iboe crude, Nigeria’s benchmark grade, was today priced at a premium of $2.36 a barrel to Dated Brent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It rose to the highest in almost nine months at $2.72 more than Dated Brent on Dec. 10.

The size of the cargoes range from 500,000 barrels to 1 million barrels. The export program for March is scheduled to be released next week.

Loading programs are monthly schedules of crude shipments compiled by field operators to allow buyers and sellers to plan their supply and trading activities.

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