OPEC's production cuts and US sanctions against Venezuela and Iran have limited the availability of heavy and acidic crude grades to Europe, where the prices of heavier grades have recently risen in the midst of an ever stronger market, commodity traders S & P Global Platts says.
US sanctions against Iran had already limited part of the heavy-duty supply to Europe. So with the new round of OPEC / non-OPEC cuts that began in January, Iraq's Basra Light and Heavy typically are very popular with European refineries – also in the spot market in Europe since Iraq deviates more barrels of Basra into the premium Middle East market Manufacturers: Asia.
"There are no destination-free Basrah loads currently coming to Europe at the end of February, when they are targeting Asia," a trader told Platts.
On top of sanctions against Iran and OPEC cuts, US sanctions against Venezuela at the end of January increased the heavy crude market in Europe, and traders expect the market to tighten even more in the coming months.
The sanctions on Venezuela and Iran, as well as OPEC's cuts, have led to a major imbalance between bright sweet characters and heavy acid qualities, especially in Europe, which the Middle East and other oil producers are targeting to retain sales in the Asian market.
Due to tighter supply of medium and heavily sour crude oil, eastern references for acidic crude grades traded higher than Brent Crude prices in early February in a rarely seen global oil price trend.
In Europe, some sour crude characters, such as Russia's Urals, have started trading at prizes for sweeter raw materials due to limited acid and heavy crude availability, according to S & P Global Platts data.
"Urals are on positive numbers, Basrah trades with dramatic premiums to OSP, and I do not see why sour should soften, demand is there, but there is not much available, a dealer said Platts.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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