Price Assessment

West African Crude Oil Price Assessment

  • What is West African Crude Oil?
  • How do we assess West African Crude Oil?
  • Evolution of Platts West African Crude Oil Assessments

What is West African Crude Oil?

Platts assesses West African (WAF) crude oil loading from Nigeria, Angola and the Republic of Congo, which together account for the bulk of the major crude oil export grades within the region.

West African crude oil is typically consumed outside the region, and is a popular feedstock for refineries in South and East Asia, Europe, and the United States.

Total West African crude oil exports are typically around 4.5 million barrels per day, of which exports from Angola and Nigeria account for a total of nearly 4.0 million b/d.

The Platts Dated Brent assessment by S&P Global Commodity Insights is used as the basis for a great deal of crude oil transactions in this market, while the Platts West African differential assessments are widely used as a reference point in understanding market dynamics across the region.

West African crude oil typically has relatively low sulfur content by world standards, but varies widely in terms of gravity, with Nigeria being well-known for light sweet crude oil grades while Angola is more frequently associated with heavy sweet crude oil.

Key Nigerian crudes assessed by Platts include Qua Iboe and Bonny Light, as well as lighter grades Agbami and Akpo, and the heavier grade Forcados.

In Angola, key crudes include heavy sweet grades Dalia and Pazflor, and lighter grades such as Nemba. In the Republic of Congo, Platts assesses the heavy grade Djeno.

Up to 100 cargoes of Nigerian, Angolan and Congolese crude oil are eligible for assessment each month.

West African crude finds its way to both east and west locations, with China, India, Europe and the US key buyers.

How do we assess West African Crude Oil?

West African crude oil is traded on an FOB basis for loading at a wide range of terminals across the region.

Platts assessments by S&P Global Commodity Insights reflect the repeatable, transactable price of West African crude cargoes at 16:30 London time, for loading 25-55 days forwards, Monday through Friday.

Bids and offers always reflect standard industry norms and practice. All Platts West African crude is assessed on a Market on Close assessment process basis.

Other reliable information regarding bids, offers and trades in the West African market may be used in the price assessment process when appropriate, providing that it has been published to the market to enable it to be verified.

Evolution of Platts West African Crude Oil Assessments

S&P Global Commodity Insights first launched a West African crude oil price assessment in 1984, with Nigeria's Forcados. In the following years we added to its assessment portfolio, and by 2013 had brought the number of grades published to a total of 17 in three countries in the continent; Nigeria, Angola and the Republic of Congo.

Platts West African crude oil assessments by S&P Global were initially assessed 15-45 days forward, reflecting the typical loading window that buyers and sellers negotiated.

At the time, a great deal of Nigerian crude oil headed to the United States, and, to a lesser extent, Europe and Asia.

Angolan crude has for a number of years been part of Asia's, and specifically China's, staple diet – a trend that continues to this day. Demand for West African crude has changed over the years.

Demand from the US, once Nigeria's biggest crude oil customer, began to dwindle around 2010 on the back of the US' abundant supply of light, sweet shale oil, which has similar specifications to Nigerian production.

By 2013 and continuing into 2014, the US' EIA reported months where the US imported no Nigerian crude at all, dropping from over 1 million b/d. Instead, India and Europe became key buyers of the crude oil.

Refiners' buying patterns have also changed over the years; while many were satisfied with prompt supply in the late 20th Century, the 21st Century saw refiners increasingly begin to seek certainty of supply.

As such, crude oil trade began to occur further and further forward, with many Asian buyers seeking to purchase West African supply about two months ahead of delivery.

While this also tied into a lengthy voyage time from West Africa to Asia, the same trend was visible with refiners across the globe.

As such, in 2014 S&P Global widened the Platts assessment range reflected in its West African crude oil assessments to 25-55 days forward, enabling the assessment to capture current European and Asian buying patterns.