01 February 2016, Lagos — As the country is preparing to load about 62 crude oil cargoes for March 2016 delivery, over 15 cargoes of February-loading are still looking for buyers, according to trade sources.
Qua Iboe crude was offered by Exxon at a premium to dated Brent of $1.50 a barrel, steady to higher than offers heard on Tuesday. The value was pegged closer to dated plus 80 cents.
Loading delays continued on a number of Nigerian crude grades including Bonny Light, Qua Iboe, Brass River and Forcados, say traders.
Nigeria’s March exports, already at 62 cargoes, were on track to show an increase from February before the release of several loading programmes.
Data from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) showed that despite tenders from Asian buyers, such as India, having helped clear more than 20 million barrels of West African (WAF) crude oil in early December and open arbitrage to the US, WAF crude differentials remained near multi-year lows amid a glut of unsold cargoes with the number expected to rise further.
According to OPEC, the values of the Brent- related West and Northern African light sweet Basket components – Saharan Blend, Es Sider, Girassol and Nigeria’s Bonny Light, decreased by $6.59, or 14.8 per cent, to $37.95 per barrel in December.
Traders, who spoke with Reuters said” “Offers are higher, but I’m not sure how much is going through at these levels,” a trader said, referring to the Nigerian crude market.
Shell reopened the Trans Niger Pipeline “in recent days”, according to a spokeswoman. The pipeline had been closed since late November, creating loading delays for Bonny Light crude of up to 10 days, which made traders more wary of purchasing it.
Loading delays continued on Bonny Light, Qua Iboe, Brass River and Forcados crude, which traders said were limiting upward movement in their differentials to dated Brent.
Light grades such as Akpo, Agbami and Amenam were trading more quickly due to firm margins for light ends.
Angola’s March exports were selling faster than expected, traders said, with just over half the programme already matched with buyers.
High freight rates, dampened interest in distillate-rich crudes and fierce competition for Asian buyers had stymied Angolan oil during the February programme.
But with freight rates easing and several refiners and traders eager to move Angolan oil into the United States, March cargoes have sold quickly, and at higher premiums to dated Brent.
“Angola is clearing quite well,” one trader said, noting the improved arbitrage movements both east and west.
Traders have said roughly 14 February-loading cargoes from Nigeria and Angola were booked into the United States, where sellers of a variety of Atlantic Basin crudes were keen to get a foothold now that the U.S. export ban has been lifted.
The United States is drawing about 500,000 barrels per day of imports from producers such as Norway and Nigeria in a rapid revival of flows that had dwindled to nearly nothing in 2014 to 15 after the U.S. shale oil revolution.
*Roseline Okere – Guardian