The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port last week received its first Saudi Arabian crude cargo of the year, a stark contrast to 2017, when the terminal had received about 34.3 million barrels of Saudi crude during the same time frame, according to the latest S&P Global Platts Analytics and US Customs data.
On June 6, ExxonMobil imported 1.049 million barrels of 33.1 API Arab Light on the Suezmax Maran Ajax. The last time the LOOP terminal received any Saudi crude by water was November 6, 2017, when ExxonMobil used the same tanker to import 550,000 barrels of Arab Light.
The lack of Saudi crude coming into LOOP — and the US Gulf Coast more broadly — is a sharp reversal from previous years, and indicative of the kingdom’s commitment to OPEC and non-OPEC oil production cuts. By comparison, during the first six months of 2017, more than 38 million barrels of Saudi Arabian crude, including Arab Extra Light, Arab Light, Arab Medium and Arab Heavy, was brought into LOOP.
For the US Gulf Coast region in general, about 59 million barrels of Saudi Arabian crude have been imported since January. That is compared with the more than 130 million barrels that were imported into the region during the first six months of 2017.
Following Saudi Arabia’s decision to send fewer barrels of crude to the US in late 2016, other grades, including Iraqi barrels, have been imported to replace some of the lost Saudi Arabian barrels. In addition to the fewer Saudi Arabian crude barrels available in the US, there also has been a dwindling supply of crude from Venezuela and Mexico as production has stagnated.
As a result, sour crude prices along the US Gulf Coast have been on a steady upward trend since March. Regional sour crude benchmark Mars reached its strongest differential in recent history Friday and was assessed at a $5.80/b premium to WTI cash. The differential has not been higher since January 2014.
Mars backed off slightly Monday, but remained strong as it was heard trading at a $5.75/b premium to WTI cash.
LOOP Sour also has ticked up in recent weeks relative to Mars. The grade climbed from a 65 cents/b discount to Mars to a 30 cents/b discount by end of last week. The grade was heard bid Monday at Mars minus 40 cents/b.
The ‘In the LOOP’ Americas crude oil wrap runs each Monday in Crude Oil Marketwire, North American Crude and Products Scan and on the Platts Global Alert. You can read the FAQ: USGC LOOP Sour crude here and find the full special report LOOP Sour Crude: A benchmark for the future here. Also be sure to download our LOOP app by searching for ‘Platts LOOP’ in your app store.
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