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Latin America sees relief on gasoline imports, but diesel near record when needed most


Latin American gasoline cargo prices dive from early-June record highs

Backed by winter and harvest demand, diesel prices hover near records set mid-July

  • Author
  • Matthew Kohlman
  • Editor
  • Bill Montgomery
  • Commodity
  • Natural Gas Oil Petrochemicals Shipping

Delivered cargo assessments for Latin America gasoline were sharply lower June 24 than record highs set weeks earlier, but ultra low sulfur diesel prices remained close to record highs set in mid-June.

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Brazil, which has an active spot market for gasoline cargoes, was heard June 24 to have traded at a 65-cent discount to NYMEX August RBOB futures for European origin, for an 11-cent decline in the differential. On June 24, Platts assessments for CFR Santos gasoline cargoes were at an outright price of $133.25/b, down from its $161.95/b record high June 3. Santos ULSD CFR cargoes, meanwhile, were assessed $1.17 higher to $182.71/b on June 24, not far off the record $190.45/b June 16.

"Europe product is reaching Brazil with a very large discount," a Brazil market source said. "When you have the US in its driving season, the European price is more competitive than the US when trying to import gasoline into Brazil.

"But we see a lot of diesel coming to Brazil. We are importing higher volumes from AG and India but also the US. We started our diesel demand cycle in Brazil because it's very much associated with harvest now. ... We consume a lot of diesel this time of year."

Brazil typically imports about 25% of diesel demand and about 15% of gasoline consumption.

Other countries face similar dynamics, especially with subsidies, tax holidays and other practices keeping pump prices lower and stimulating demand. In Mexico, where gasoline import demand is strongest in Latin America, Platts assessed eastern Mexico CIF cargoes up $4.12 to $156.49/b June 24, but still lower than the June 9 record of $172.42/b, while ULSD cargoes at $176.83/b were much closer to the record $184.92/b June 15.

Ecuador CIF cargoes, for instance, dropped from a record $180.58/b June 9 to $163.05/b June 24 for gasoline, and declined from $189.73/b June 16 to $181.44/b June 24 for ULSD.

Ecuador brought in 2.34 million barrels of US diesel, mostly ULSD, in March 2022, the latest month of data available from the US Energy Information Administration. It was the highest level of diesel imports from the US since May 2018 and came after Russia's late February invasion of Ukraine spiked diesel prices to record highs globally. US Gulf Coast refined product exports have remained escalated since then despite waves of record prices.

"Gasoline and diesel -- more diesel -- are expensive; there is not enough," a second Latin American source noted this week after Petroecuador just filed for a second premium diesel tender this month, this time for eight cargoes from late July into August compared with six cargoes just awarded starting in mid-July. The six-cargo tender was awarded at an 82 cent/b premium to Platts US Gulf Coast ULSD pipeline assessments.

"It's difficult right now. [US players] are sending a lot of cargoes to Europe," the source said. "The prices are so high today."

Freight rates have also picked up again in Latin America. Shipping freight jumped to $3 million June 21 from $2.195 million June 14 for the 38,000 mt USGC-Chile route. Data from Platts cFlow ship and commodity tracking software from S&P Global Commodity Insights on that day showed a much bigger than normal 18 cargoes en route to Chile from the US, Asia and neighboring countries. Brazil had a solid flow of 45 ships of all sizes due for arrival, Argentina had 16 ships on their way, Ecuador nine, Peru seven and Colombia five. Most were likely carrying clean product cargoes.

Platts assessed Argentina ULSD CIF cargoes up $1.04 June 24 to $184.92/b, compared with its June 16 record of $193.28/b. Local prices in the South American country are 30% less than import parity, stimulating demand but depressing imports and causing shortages at the pump, according to industry groups.

Argentina's YPF was said to be just out with another ULSD tender to buy three cargoes for July and August delivery after awarding a two-cargo tender last week to BP and Trafigura, a third source said. Argentina's power administrator, Cammesa, is also out with a second big high sulfur diesel tender in the last month as well, stocking up for power generation needs as winter arrives.

"Argentina is staring at a huge problem," the Brazilian source said. "They need to look out."