South Korea tests US super light oil as Iran waiver uncertainty grows

South Korea’s top refiner SK Energy, above, and the country’s smallest refiner Hyundai Oilbank are studying the WTL’s assay and testing samples. (Reuters)
Updated 04 April 2019
0

South Korea tests US super light oil as Iran waiver uncertainty grows

  • South Korea is one of Iran’s biggest Asian customers, and was one of eight importers that received waivers to keep buying Iranian oil
  • West Texas Light (WTL) is a potential substitute for Iranian condensate because, when refined, WTL yields the petrochemical producing naphtha

NEW YORK/SINGAPORE: South Korea has begun testing super-light US oil sold by energy firm Anadarko Petroleum Corp. as a substitute for Iranian crude as it awaits word from Washington whether it can keep buying oil from the Middle Eastern nation, sources said.
South Korea is one of Iran’s biggest Asian customers, and was one of eight importers that received waivers to keep buying Iranian oil when the United States re-imposed sanctions in November.
Washington is expected to reduce those waivers in May, disrupting South Korea’s supply of Iranian condensate, an ultra-light crude oil that is used in its large refining and chemical industry.
West Texas Light (WTL) is seen as a potential substitute for Iranian condensate because, when refined, WTL yields a large volume of the refined product naphtha, which can be used to produce petrochemicals. Most WTL is produced in the western part of the Permian Basin in Texas.
Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen confirmed the company is exporting WTL, and said they “anticipate those volumes will continue to grow in the future,” although he did not confirm whether South Korea was testing this grade.
South Korea’s top refiner SK Energy, and the country’s smallest refiner Hyundai Oilbank are studying the crude’s assay and testing samples, the sources said.
“The crude’s API seems to be 48 degrees so in a way it’s possible (to replace Iranian condensate) but again we need to check the oil’s quality,” one of the sources said.
The source is referring to the so-called API gravity of the crude, which measures its density and indicates the type of fuels an oil yields when refined.
A spokeswoman from SK Innovation, owner of SK Energy, and a spokesman from Hyundai Oilbank declined to comment.
South Korea’s interest in West Texas Light is occurring as record US oil production and exports have allowed the Trump administration to use energy as a pressure point in foreign policy. Its largest-scale efforts have been sanctions against Iran’s and Venezuela’s oil industry. Seoul has been negotiating with the United States to extend its waiver, saying there are few alternatives to the Iranian condensate it buys, according to a former US official. Yet to gain an extension South Korea will likely have to reduce its current imports by between 5 percent and 20 percent, three sources familiar with the matter said.
South Korea, a close US political ally, also does not want to jeopardize its relationship with Washington. “They’re scared of Trump. They want to be able to say, ‘Look at me, I am buying all your crude,’” said Sandy Fielden, director of oil and products research at Morningstar. In talks last week with government officials, South Korea asked for maximum flexibility by stressing the importance of Iranian condensate for the South Korean petrochemical industry, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released last week. Washington is trying to cut Iran’s oil exports to less than 1 million barrels per day (bpd), down from more than 2.5 million bpd last May.
South Korea imported about 176,237 bpd of Iranian crude in the January to February period, according to data from the Korea National Oil Corp. (KNOC), down 38.5 percent from the same period a year earlier.
US crude exports to South Korea averaged about 256,000 bpd in 2018, according to the US Energy Department. But, imports in February surged to 443,000 bpd, the KNOC data showed. South Korea has been buying other types of US light crude, but two buyers — SK Energy and Hyundai Oilbank — recently turned down cargoes of Eagle Ford condensate from Texas after the oil was found to contain impurities.
WTL has largely been blended with other oil grades to be sold at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery point for US crude futures.


‘Huge increase’ in crude prices not expected: IEA executive director

Updated 19 July 2019
0

‘Huge increase’ in crude prices not expected: IEA executive director

  • The International Energy Agency is revising its 2019 global oil demand growth forecast down to 1.1 million barrels per day
  • IEA’s Fatih Birol: Serious political tensions could impact market dynamics

NEW DELHI: The International Energy Agency (IEA) doesn’t expect oil prices to rise significantly because demand is slowing and there is a glut in global crude markets, its executive director said on Friday.
“Prices are determined by the markets ... If we see the market today, we see that the demand is slowing down considerably,” said IEA’s Fatih Birol, in public comments made during a two-day energy conference in New Delhi.
The IEA is revising its 2019 global oil demand growth forecast down to 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) and may cut it again if the global economy and especially China shows further weakness, Birol told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
Last year, the IEA predicted that 2019 oil demand would grow by 1.5 million bpd. But in June this year it cut the growth forecast to 1.2 million bpd.
“Substantial amount of oil is coming from the United States, about 1.8 million barrels per day, plus oil from Iraq, Brazil and Libya,” Birol said.
Under normal circumstances, he said, he doesn’t expect a “huge increase” in crude oil prices. But Birol warned serious political tensions could yet impact market dynamics.
Crude oil prices rose nearly 2 percent on Friday after a US Navy ship destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, a major chokepoint for global crude flows.
Referring to India, Birol stressed the country could cut its imports, amid rising oil demand in the country, by increasing domestic local oil and gas production.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had set a target in 2015 to cut India’s dependence on oil imports to two-thirds of consumption by 2022, and half by 2030. But rising demand and low domestic production have pushed imports to 84 percent of total needs in the last five years, government data shows.
Meanwhile, the IEA doesn’t expect a global push toward environmentally friendly electric vehicles can dent crude demand significantly, Birol said, as the main driver of crude demand globally has been petrochemicals, not cars.
He said the impact of a serious electric vehicle adoption push by the Indian government would not be felt immediately.