09 December 2016, Singapore/Tokyo — Saudi Arabia and Iraq are set to supply full contracted volumes of crude to several Asian refiners in January, despite commitments to cut output under a deal signed last week by members of OPEC, refinery sources said on Friday.
The top two producers in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are looking to defend market share in the fastest growing region for oil demand, even as the cartel battles a festering supply glut that has hit global prices hard.
Sources at eight refiners in Asia told Reuters they had been notified by state oil giant Saudi Aramco that in January it was set to supply full amounts of crude contracted as part of annual deals, with three to load extra volumes they had requested. The sources declined to be identified as they were not authourised to speak with media.
“It’s quite telling as there are not only no supply cuts, but they have given extra volumes,” a source said, indicating that the move underscored that producers were eager to maintain market share in Asia.
Three of the refiners said they had also received full volumes of Basra crude from Iraq’s Oil Marketing Company (SOMO).
Both Aramco and SOMO were not immediately available for comment.
One buyer in North Asia said Aramco had agreed to supply his refinery with a volume of Arab Extra Light crude several percent above its contracted amount for next month.
Some of the extra volumes were committed before the OPEC meeting on Nov. 30, when production cuts were agreed.
Energy consultancy PIRA said in a note on Thursday that Saudi Arabia had been informing some customers about cuts to their January crude oil supplies, with larger reductions expected in North America.
“U.S. refiners have received lower noms (nominations). The Saudis are targeting inventory reductions, so it makes sense that the reductions will be in the U.S. and Europe rather than Asia,” said another industry source.
Aramco typically notifies customers of their supply allocations by the 10th of each month. When the time to load the oil draws closer, buyers nominate ships to lift the oil and both sides will then decide if they will just adjust volumes by plus or minus 10 percent using so-called ‘operational tolerance’ clauses.
Some sources said the company could end up cutting volumes to be loaded by about 5 percent under such clauses.
OPEC will meet non-OPEC nations in Vienna this weekend, seeking their help in boosting crude prices.
It hopes producers outside the 13-nation bloc will add another 600,000 barrels per day (b/d) in cuts on the heels of the landmark deal amongst members of the exporting group to cut production by around 1.2 million barrels b/d beginning in January.
* Florence Tan in SINGAPORE, Osamu Tsukimori in TOKYO, Jane Chung in SEOUL, Chen Aizhu in BEIJING and Ron Bousso in LONDON; Editing by Richard Pullin and Joseph Radford