Oil exports from Ceyhan poised to fall due to Turkmen diversion

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Azeri BTC oil exports from Turkey’s Ceyhan port are set to fall after Turkmenistan diverts its oil flows to Russia, which may also reduce the quality of the Azeri BTC blend by lowering its Turkmen content, traders and industry sources said.

The BTC pipeline is fed by oil from Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Turkmen oil is light and considered to be of high quality with low sulphur content.

Exports of Turkmen oil via Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossiisk will resume in February at the expense of flows via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline.

Relations between Moscow and Ashgabat have been strained after Russia, once the biggest buyer of Turkmen gas, halted purchases in 2016.

Turkmenistan stopped the transit of its oil via Russia the same year and has been exporting almost all its crude via the Azeri Caspian port of Baku.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to forge closer ties with ex-Soviet Turkmenistan and has been on friendly terms with his Turkmen counterpart Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

According to traders, supplies from Turkmenistan to the BTC pipeline may decline next month, while in March they are likely to dry out completely.

BTC and Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“Even if Turkmen oil is redirected to another pipeline, we don’t think it will lead to a worsening of Azeri Light (crude) quality,” said a spokesman for Azeri energy firm SOCAR, the operator of BTC.

Traders and industry sources say Turkmenistan’s decision to divert its oil to Russia could be explained by more profitable transportation tariffs.

Currently, over 200,000 tonnes of light and low-sulphur oil per month from Turkmenistan is supplied to the BTC pipeline.

BTC, which pumps oil from the Azeri, Chirag and Guneshli oilfields operated by BP, has a capacity of around 1 million barrels per day, while actual supplies have been about 70 percent of that.

Additional reporting by Nailia Bagirova in Baku; Writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Dale Hudson and Emelia Sithole-Matarise