Singapore/Seoul/New Delhi/Tokyo/Dubai — State-owned oil behemoth Saudi Aramco has rejected at least three Asian refiners’ requests for additional bargain-priced crude for April, despite a recent pledge by the kingdom to boost supplies to a new record, four sources told Reuters.
The refiners – one Korean, one Taiwanese and one Chinese, had requested extra barrels of Saudi oil in a so-called nomination process for April – on top of their long-term supply deals – following the steep price cuts announced by Aramco at the weekend, but were turned down by the producer.
However, Saudi Arabia did approve incremental supplies for its top Indian and Chinese customers, including Bharat Petroleum Corp (BPLC), Reliance Industries Ltd, at least one Chinese state refiner, and privately held Zhejiang Rongsheng Holding Group, to fend off market share threats in the top Asian oil markets – India and China, other sources told Reuters.
“We have got all we asked for,” one of the sources said of the nomination results.
Reliance, operator of the world’s biggest refining complex, and BPCL have each bought 2 million barrels of extra Saudi oil for loading in April, Reuters reported earlier on Thursday.
BPCL is taking a mix of Arab light and Arab medium grades.
Aramco did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it would increase supplies to a record 12.3 million barrels per day (bpd) in April, or 300,000 bpd above its maximum production capacity, indicating it may draw from storage.
Saudi’s increased supply was mainly for the lighter grades, while the increase in medium and heavy grades appeared to be limited, two of the sources said.
Some Saudi crude term contract holders believed the producer was playing a strategic game during its allocation of extra April crude barrels to beat competitors in targeted markets while taking care of its core clientele, some of the sources said.
“Saudis are trying to fight against Russia and shale producers in U.S,” said a trader with a North Asia refinery.
“India is a pretty big Russian barrel buyer for Urals. For the Koreans and Japanese they don’t buy much Russian (crude) except ESPO, and they will buy U.S. (crude) anyway.”
Some Asian buyer that had their requests rejected were not pleased while a few were still trying to negotiate for extra barrels.
“(Saudi) did not give any explanation. So annoying,” said one of the sources, who was disappointed about its own nomination result.
Due to the hefty Saudi price cuts, many Asian buyers had asked to load more in April, while a contango market structure supports oil storage, creating competitions for the extra barrels.
Some buyers in Asia had asked for three times the usual amount of Saudi crude, said Lachlan Shaw, head of commodities research at National Australia Bank in Melbourne, noting that the discounts in official selling prices set last week were bigger for other areas outside Asia.
But at least three Asian refiners – one Chinese and two Japanese – did not seek more than their usual volume due to lingering concerns about limited storage space, weak demand and the downward price trend, three sources at the refineries said.
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*Shu Zhang and Aizhu Chen; Jane Chung; Nidhi Verma, Yuka Obayashi & Aaron Sheldrick & Rania El Gamal; Editing Kim Coghill, Robert Birsel – HP