First loaded VLCC of the year sets sail for South Korea
What appears to be the first Very Large Crude Carrier of the year to load and depart from the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port is bound for Yeosu, South Korea, according to cFlow, Platts trade flow software.
The 2 million barrel-capacity Amad set sail from LOOP on Sunday after arriving there on December 27. The vessels’ destination of Yeosu is home to the 785,000 b/d GS Caltex re finery, which runs mainly light and medium sour crudes.
LOOP first started exporting crude on VLCCs in February 2018 and averaged loading about one a month for the remainder of the year. LOOP exported 1.94 million barrels of crude oil in February 2018, which was the first month of LOOP exports, according to data from the state of Louisiana. In September, which is the most recent data available, LOOP exported 1.99 million barrels.
US crude exports have exploded in the past year, reaching or exceeding 3 million b/d twice in 2018. US crude exports were expected lower for the week ending December 28, decreasing 730,000 b/d to 2.24 million b/d, according to data released Friday by the Energy Information Administration. It was the lowest flow since mid-November and less than the four-week average of about 2.5 million b/d.
Although US exports dipped during the last week of the year, all indications point to stronger flows in the weeks ahead. A widening spread between frontline Brent and WTI, as well as weakening VLCC and Suezmax freight rates, has opened the opportunity for more US crude to be sent to Europe and Asia.
And there has been a flurry of fixture activity in recent days as shippers arrange for cargoes to be sent in the coming weeks. Additionally, a widening spread between second-month Dubai and front-month physical LOOP Sour could encourage export activity of USGC medium sours from LOOP to Asia. Month on month, Dubai’s premium to LOOP Sour crude increased $3.88/b to $5.25/b Monday.
As second-month Dubai’s premium increases, LOOP Sour and other comparable medium sour grades like Mars become more competitive with Dubai-based grades in Asia. In December, LOOP Sour crude had a typical API gravity of 29.7 degrees and a typical sulfur content of 2.71%, according to crude quality data from LOOP. In comparison, USGC medium sour grade Mars, which is currently assessed at a 25 cent/b premium to LOOP Sour, has an average API gravity of 29.44 degrees and typical sulfur content of 1.95%.
Platts Analytics estimated that about 2.533 million b/d of crude oil was exported for the week ending January 4. The week saw sharp increases in flows to China and South Korea. Last week also saw the second VLCC loaded in the US being shipped to Europe.
The Nave Buena Suerte, the second VLCC to be partially loaded at the Moda Ingleside Energy Center, set sail from Corpus Christi on Saturday and is bound for Rotterdam. Olympic Lady, another VLCC loaded in Corpus Christi, is set to arrive in Rotterdam this week.