China Buys Second North Sea Crude Cargo This Year, Fixtures Show

China will receive a tanker of North Sea crude for the second time this year, according to fixture reports from two shipbrokers.

The rare arbitrage opened after the spread between benchmarks Dated Brent and Dubai narrowed to the smallest in seven months. China International United Petroleum & Chemical Corp., known as Unipec, booked the suezmax SKS Satilla to load at Ekofisk Teesside terminal in England for Ningbo from Nov. 20 to Nov. 25, according to fixture lists from PF Bassoe AS and Optima Shipbrokers.

This unusual purchase comes after Chile bought two cargoes of November Ekofisk, one of four grades that make up Dated Brent. Refiners in South Korea, who get a 3 percent import waiver, will load three very large crude carriers of Forties blend this month. Oseberg and Brent are the other two components of Dated Brent, which is used to price more than half the world’s oil. China typically buys crude from nearby countries as well as the Middle East, Russia and West Africa.

“An improvement in North Sea output as maintenance drew to a close at the end of the third quarter and early this quarter has certainly played its part in Brent’s weakness,” Virendra Chauhan, an analyst at Energy Aspects in London, said today.

Dated Brent’s premium to Dubai fell to $2.61 a barrel on Nov. 7, the smallest gap since April 24, according to data from PVM Oil Associates Ltd. The spread between the two benchmarks has since rebounded to $3.62 today. The narrower the spread, the more attractive Brent-priced crudes are for Asian buyers.

Atlantic Basin

“With the Brent-Dubai EFS near $2, Asian refiners should start to look at Atlantic basin crudes,” he said in an e-mail.

The suezmax, able to haul as much as 1 million barrels of oil, will be the first to leave the region for China since the VLCC Marbat set sail from Forties Hound Point terminal in Scotland to Yangpu. The supertanker, which reached the Chinese port yesterday, according to shiptracking data, is the first to delivery North Sea crude to the Asian nation since August 2012, import data from the Beijing-based Customs General Administration show.

Lv Dapeng, a Beijing-based spokesman for China Petrochemical Corp., Unipec’s parent company, didn’t answer three calls seeking comment.

Leo Glory

Two suezmaxes loaded with Ekofisk left Teesside earlier this month for the Chilean port of Quintero for the first time since May 29, 2012, shiptracking data show.

Brokers can report tanker charters when the accords are provisional and the bookings are subject to cancellations. Unipec booked the VLCC Leo Glory to load from Forties Hound Point on May 30 for China. The vessel never made the journey, ship tracking data from Bloomberg shows.

South Korea is by far the largest buyer of North Sea crude because of a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. The accord, signed July 2011, triggered an unprecedented flow of North Sea crude to the Asian nation.

Imports from the North Sea will jump to the most in 18 months in November with the purchase of about 6 million barrels, shipping data show. The nation has purchased an average 2.3 million barrels a month of crude from the U.K., according to data from Korea National Oil Corp.

Glencore Xstrata Plc, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc have each chartered a VLCC to take Forties to South Korea in November, according to five shipbrokers including JGO Shipbrokers AS.

Daily exports of North Sea BFOE crudes will jump in November to the most in 21 months, loading programs obtained by Bloomberg News show. Shipments will average 1 million barrels a day, up 15 percent from a revised 870,968 barrels in October, according to the plans. This is the highest since February 2012.

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