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UAE's ADNOC takes proactive steps to capture returning Asia crude demand

Highlights

Ramped up demand in Asia may surpass returning supply

ADNOC's 5% July cuts smaller than 20% and 5% in June

OPEC+ to meet on June 4; further cuts to be discussed

Singapore — UAE's ADNOC is keeping a beat ahead of the OPEC+ members by ensuring customers of its crude oil in Asia of sufficient supplies as demand for Middle East sour crude returns, market sources told S&P Global Platts.

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The announcement came unexpectedly early, said a crude trader based in Singapore, adding that "buyers have not even nominated volumes yet."

While OPEC+ members discuss whether to meet on June 4 or June 10, and whether to continue cutting at 9.7 million b/d or not, the Abu Dhabi oil producer has already informed its customers that it will cut its crude exports by only 5% for July loading barrels.

ADNOC's announcement was issued to certain customers late in the week ended May 30, several market sources based in Asia told Platts. The move was seen as a competitive edge for the emirate's marketing entity as refineries shuttered in recent months prepare to restart for summer production, said market participants in the East.

ADNOC declined to comment on the matter.

The cuts -- 5% for volumes of Murban, Das Blend, Umm Lulu and Upper Zakum in July -- are expected to have a lighter effect on the market than those for June.

"They are supplying higher volumes in July compared to June," said a source with an Asian refiner.

Last month, ADNOC announced cuts of 20% to June loading Murban and Upper Zakum cargoes, while Umm Lulu and Das Blend were cut by 5% each respectively.

This is in keeping with ADNOC's commitment to OPEC+, which will see members collectively retract 9.7 million b/d over May and June, but then whittle that figure down to 7.7 million b/d starting July.

PRODUCERS SCRAMBLE TO KEEP PACE

Other producers are not far behind, however, with an earlier OPEC+ meeting now highly likely in order to gain more clarity on H2 2020 production cut quotas before the monthly crude trading cycle kicks off in Asia.

The alliance is now expected to meet June 4 instead of the previously scheduled June 9-10, so that July nominations can factor in any changes to oil production quotas, Platts reported May 31.

Depending on the outcome of the meeting, ADNOC's 5% could be called into question, said several market sources in Asia.

While confirming that they had received the notice of the cuts from ADNOC end-May, a Japanese refiner pointed out that buyers would be keeping an eye on the results from the meeting, as ADNOC's committed volumes could vary post-meeting.

RETURNING DEMAND

Major Asian crude importers such as China, Japan and Korea are showing preliminary signs of returning demand as countries relax coronavirus-linked restrictions on work and travel, Platts data showed.

Crude demand from China, which has kept a few notches ahead of the rest of Asia even in the depths of the pandemic, is expected to continue at an upbeat pace during June and July, said traders based in the country.

In Japan, gasoline demand is expected to recover over the summer months after contracting heavily over May, gasoline traders told Platts

Meanwhile in South Korea, refiners have said they are planning to import full term contractual volumes of crude from Saudi Aramco for June and beyond.

A company source at the country's SK Innovation said it plans to receive full term supply for July from other major Middle Eastern suppliers including ADNOC and SOMO.

Other South Korean refiners including GS Caltex and Hyundai Oilbank declined to comment on their term Saudi and Abu Dhabhi crude supplies for June and July, but the companies indicated that they plan to ramp up refinery run rates from Q3 and Middle Eastern term supply nomination cuts, if any, would be minimal for the South Korean customers.