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Nigeria attacks give life to new crude oil export grade

London — * Forcados Light exported from a terminal at Warri refinery
* Exports flows around 10,000-15,000 b/d
* Crude grade lighter than Forcados blend

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A new Nigerian crude export grade has emerged in the past few months as Africa's biggest oil producer struggles to overcome the impact of militant attacks on one of the country's key crude blends in the Niger Delta.

Called Forcados Light, the new crude is independent of the regular export grade, Forcados Blend, and is being shipped via a terminal at the country's 125,000 b/d Warri refinery.

Loadings of the popular export grade Forcados, also commonly known as Forcados Blend, are normally carried out through the Shell-operated Forcados terminal in the Niger Delta. But they have been out for several months over the past year due to attacks in February and November leading to a declaration of force majeure on deliveries.

Forcados exports resumed briefly at the end of September and in October until an attack in early-November on the Trans-Forcados Pipeline halted deliveries again. Forcados, a gasoil-rich, sweet crude blend, is one of Nigeria's top export crudes averaging some 250,000 b/d of output.

The crude for the new grade comes from OMLs 4, 38 and 41 in the Delta State, operated by indigenous producer Seplat Petroleum.

The company confirmed that crude is being sent from these fields via a 100,000 b/d pipeline to available storage tanks at the Warri refinery and sold on a FOB basis to Seplat's offtaker, Mercuria, at the plant's jetty.

Crude characteristics

Traders said exports are currently around 10,000-15,000 b/d, with a cargo being exported every four to six weeks.

The grade is marketed by Mercuria and mainly goes to refineries in the nearby West and Central Africa regions and is delivered in Aframax-size cargoes, sources added.

A source at Mercuria was unavailable for comment on the matter.

"It's the light end of [Forcados] - comes from one of the Forcados fields," said a crude oil trader active in the West African market. "It's lifting when Forcados is on force majeure, and is normally exported with some of the heavier fields," he added.

One trader even said some cargoes have gone to the US and Europe recently.

Traders also said the crude is currently trading at a discount to the main Forcados grade as it is much lighter than the main export grade.

Forcados was assessed by Platts at Dated Brent minus 85 cents/b on Thursday.

Seplat said late last year that its intention was to have this "alternative export route available for the foreseeable future", and was targeting exports of 30,000 b/d on a longer-term basis.

Seplat also said it is also working on upgrades to the jetty and liquid treatment infrastructure to be able to secure a reliable continuous export route.

Nigerian oil output plummeted to near 30-year lows of around 1.4 million b/d in May from 2.2 million b/d earlier this year as attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta rose at an alarming pace due to resurgent militancy.

--Gillian Carr,
--Eklavya Gupte,
--Edited by James Leech,