Asian demand for crude oil from the Atlantic Basin and the Americas is set to rise as low prices drive Japanese and South Korean buyers to snap up cargoes to arrive ahead of peak winter consumption.
Robust appetite from the region could help soak up excess supplies in Europe and the United States, offering some support to benchmark global prices that plumbed 10-month lows last week.
The loading of oil shipments from Europe and the Americas to Asia tapered off in June after surging between March and May, but the recent price slump is pushing Asian buyers and traders to once again turn to the North Sea Forties grade of oil and to U.S. crude.
Some traders hope the value of cargoes will increase during the time spent en route to Asia, with a possible upcoming climb in prices indicated by October ICE Brent futures this month rising as much as 70 cents per barrel above the prompt month August contract LCOc1-LCOc3.
“We know people are taking WAF (West African) and North Sea,” said a trader with a North Asian refiner, declining to be identified as he was not authorised to speak with media.
A widening of Brent’s premium to West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude to almost $3 a barrel earlier this month has particularly buoyed the appeal of moving U.S. oil to Asia CL-LCO1=R.
Japanese refiners JXTG and Cosmo Energy have bought U.S. cargoes that will arrive in September, trade sources said, ahead of the winter season when power demand jumps as people crank up electric heating.
JXTG has purchased 1 million barrels of the Mars grade of crude, while Cosmo has bought a mixture of WTI Midland and Domestic Sweet (DSW) blend, those sources said.
Both companies declined to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, traders expect 2 million to 4 million barrels of North Sea Forties to load in July and arrive in South Korea from the end of August to early September.
Elsewhere, the release of a second batch of Chinese crude import quotas has also spurred sellers to bring more oil to Asia, said an analyst at a trading company.
And shipping data shows that ExxonMobil, which operates a refinery in Thailand, chartered the Aframax Astro Saturn to take U.S. crude from Corpus Christi, Texas to Sri Racha, Thailand for end-July arrival.
“U.S. crude has high potential. We want to diversify our supply sources (and are interested),” an official from a Southeast Asian refiner said, adding that it was keen on both light-sweet and medium-sour crude but not the DSW blend because of quality issues.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Florence Tan and Mark Tay in Singapore; Additional reporting by Osamu Tsukimori in Tokyo; Editing by Joseph Radford)