September 20, 2019 / 9:55 AM / 24 days ago

Saudi Aramco books European naphtha for Asia after attacks

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Saudi Aramco has booked at least 120,000 tonnes of naphtha for September loading from Europe in a rare move as it seeks to plug a supply gap following attacks on its oil facilities on Saturday, industry sources said.

Data from Refinitiv Oil Research shows Aramco chartered the vessel British Resolution to transport 80,000 tonnes of naphtha from Tuapse, Russia, on Sept. 17 followed by the STI Exceed to take 60,000 tonnes from Eleusis, Greece, on Sept. 24.

These are the first European cargoes sent by Aramco to Asia since February, the data showed, as sources added they were expected to hit Asian shores from Nov. 1 to Nov. 3.

“It is not normal for them to buy European cargoes. But they are short of A310,” said a trader, who added that some of the cargoes are to be supplied to South Korea.

A310 is a naphtha grade that comes from Ras Tanura where Saudi Aramco operates a condensate splitter. It could not be confirmed what the throughput was at the splitter.

Asia’s naphtha market has been volatile since the attacks. South Korea’s YNCC bought naphtha on Thursday at a premium of about $10 a tonne to Japan quotes on a cost-and-freight (C&F) basis, industry sources said, marking the highest price it has paid since May 2018, Reuters data showed.

Although Saudi Arabia’s monthly naphtha exports between January to August at about 327,000 tonnes is not even half of United Arab Emirates’ at 1 million tonnes, based on data from Refinitiv Oil Research, any production lost in Saudi would impact Asia since it is structurally short of naphtha.

But industry sources said the recent persistent oversupply has helped cushion the impact as this allows Saudi Arabia to buy cargoes.

“Naphtha is globally oversupplied. Limited risk ... apart from tension on premium,” one source said.

“Aramco has managed to cover the production losses with cargoes sourced elsewhere for September/October loadings,” said a second source.

“They sell most of their cargoes on a CFR (cost and freight) basis, meaning they can supply their buyers with alternative naphtha sourced from all over,” the source added.

Aramco also won a spot tender to buy a 38,000 tonne cargo from Egypt’s EGPC for late October loading in Suez, a European naphtha trader said.

Aramco also has a deal with Egypt signed earlier this year to take up to 77,000 tonnes of naphtha this month.

Apart from the European cargoes, Aramco has bought 60,000 tonnes of naphtha from India’s Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) this week.

“So far they’ve [Aramco Trading] paid three huge numbers on tenders,” the European trader said referring to the purchases from Greece’s Hellenic, EGPC and HPCL.

Additional reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar in London; editing by Jason Neely and David Evans

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