By Sharon Cho
Royal Dutch Shell Plc has offered a cargo of U.S. West Texas Intermediate Midland crude that’s priced off the Dubai benchmark in its debut during Asian hours on S&P Global Platts’ widely-referenced trading platform, according to two traders and data compiled by Bloomberg.
Offering the shipment — scheduled to be delivered to Singapore, or Linggi or Nipah in Malaysia — against the Middle East’s oil benchmark brings it into direct competition with Gulf grades produced in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar. Once considered a one-off arbitrage, the flow of American oil to Asia has increased in recent years.
“It’s another tasty entree on the oil buffet table that may be quite appetizing for some of the Asian buyers,” said John Driscoll, chief strategist at JTD Energy Services Ltd. in Singapore. “Considering that U.S. crude exports have steadily been ramping up, this move could be disruptive for the traditional suppliers in the Middle East.”
While U.S. shipments of grades such as WTI Midland and Eagleford are typically priced off the American benchmark WTI, Shell’s offer makes it easier for buyers to compare it against similar-quality oil that refiners across South Korea, Japan and China typically take. The crude can be transferred to other vessels in the Malacca Strait near Singapore, making the logistics less complicated for buyers across Asia.
American exports have eroded the dominance of Middle Eastern crude in Asia, at a time when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies are restricting their output in an effort to prop up prices. South Korean oil imports from the U.S. rose to about 8.5 million barrels in June, compared with 3 million barrels a year earlier. American shipments to Asia are likely to expand further due the start up of two Permian pipelines this year.
The offer by Shell was made for a WTI Midland cargo for delivery on Oct. 15-25 at a premium of $4.55 a barrel to Dubai benchmark price, the traders said. The deal was subject to the buyer’s acceptance of a vessel named Phoenix Jamnagar.