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Highlights

US crude exports to Asia averaged 1.89 mil b/d in week ended Jan. 8

WTI FOB USGC cargo pricing hit highest outright value in nearly a year

Houston — US crude exports over the week ended on Jan. 8 fell by 621,000 b/d from the week prior to 3.01 million b/d, a four-week low, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration.

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The four-week moving average for weekly US crude exports rose nearly 100,000 b/d on the week to 3.34 million b/d, the most since the period ended on May 22, 2020, when the four-week moving average was reported at 3.37 million b/d, EIA data showed.

Compared to the same time last year, the four-week moving average was reported 259,000 b/d lower than the four-week moving average over the period ended on Jan. 10, 2020, of 3.60 million b/d.

As has been the case in recent weeks, the majority of US crude exports over the week ended on Jan. 8 were destined for countries in Asia, with a total of 1.89 million b/d of crude exported to the region, according to data from Kpler, a data intelligence company.

While US crude exports in 2020 were buoyed by strong exports to China, which saw a 337,000 b/d increase year on year in 2020 to average 452,000 b/d amid a low oil price environment and an effort by China to uphold commitments in the Phase 1 trade deal regarding increased energy purchases, S&P Global Platts Analytics does not expect the likelihood of Chinese refiners to continue such heavy buying in 2021 to be high.

Arbitrage for US crude to Northeast Asia has been shown as open in recent months according to the Platts Crude Arbflow calculator. Arbitrage for West Texas Intermediate crude from the Magellan East Houston terminal has been shown as open through the first 12 days of January at a $1.09/b incentive against local ESPO crude -- up from a $1.02/b arbitrage incentive in December.

Arbitrage for Mars crude into China against Dubai crude has also been shown as open in recent months, with the incentive through the first 12 days of January averaging 73 cents/b -- up from a 37 cents/b average arbitrage incentive in December.

US EXPORT PRICING

WTI Midland crude cargoes loading on an FOB basis in the US Gulf Coast reached their highest value in nearly a year on Jan. 12 as the oil complex rose on expectations of tight global supply.

WTI FOB USGC was assessed at $54.94/b, up 95 cents/b on the day and the strongest outright value since Feb. 21, 2002, when it was assessed at $56.59/b, according to S&P Global Platts Data.

Trading activity for February-loading cargoes started to pick up in the week ended Jan. 9, sources said as the crude market rose.

WTI FOB on the USGC was last heard offered at April ICE Brent minus $1.45/b and minus $1.50/b for February loading.

Among the exports for the week were three VLCCs, carrying some 2 million barrels each, that were loaded at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port. The Solana set sail from LOOP on Jan. 1 and is bound for Ningbo, China, according to cFlow, Platts trade-flow software. The Esteem Explorer set sail from LOOP on Jan. 3 and is expected in Daesan, South Korea and SCF Caucasus departed Jan. 6 for India.