Singapore — Pakistan's oil marketing companies are likely to import more spot barrels of motor fuels soon as the recovery in domestic demand amid low refinery run rates threatens to draw down the country's already limited supplies, traders said.
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This expectation was sparked by concerns of a supply crunch after the country's Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority in mid-June imposed a cumulative fine of around Pakistan rupees 40 million ($240,000) on six major oil marketing companies for holding insufficient motor fuel inventories, OGRA's official reports revealed.
Shell Pakistan, Total Parco Pakistan Limited, Puma Energy, Gas and Oil Pakistan, Attock Petroleum and Hascol Petroleum were the six slapped with fines, according to the reports. However, they could not be immediately reached for comment on the matter.
Signs of an increased import appetite also emerged from a string of amendments Pakistan State Oil Corporation made to its recent buy tenders, seeking even prompter delivery of gasoline cargoes. In Its 92 RON gasoline buy tender for H1 July, the company revised the original delivery dates of July 1-15 to June 25-July 15, while the dates for its H2 July and H1 August tenders were changed to July 10-31 and August 1-12, from July 16-31 and August 1-15, respectively.
"By pushing the dates earlier, we can see that PSO has a more urgent need for [gasoline] cargoes," one Singapore-based trader said.
In addition, the company also issued a fresh spot tender seeking an additional 4,000 mt of 97 RON gasoline for delivery over July 23-28 to Keamari terminal.
PSO typically buys 97 RON gasoline in a combined cargo with 92 RON gasoline, but this time round, has imported it separately due to a sudden spike in driving activity, market sources said.
In addition to raising the cargo sizes of imports to 55,000 mt, from 45,000 mt previously, a source with close knowledge of PSO's import plans said that the company's import requirements will likely be around eight MR-sized cargoes per month, two more than the usual requirement of around six MRs per month.
GROWING DOMESTIC DEMAND
In a June 11 notice on its website, state-owned PSO said that the "daily average sale and market share in both petrol and diesel have increased significantly in June 2020 compared to the last 11 months due to the shift in demand from other companies' outlets."
"The current daily average sale... has increased significantly by 122% in these days of June as compared to the last 11 months' per day average sales in both products of motor gasoline and high speed diesel," PSO said in the notice, adding that combined sales have averaged 33,800 mt/day to-date in June, more than double the 15,200 mt/day over the past 11 months.
Meanwhile, PSO has issued a tender for 10,000 mt of jet fuel for delivery to Karachi over August 1-15, which is the the first time since April 28 it is seeking jet fuel.
Industry sources said Pakistan would look to import more jet fuel after easing a blanket ban on all inbound international flights imposed on March 21.
The Pakistani government allowed the resumption of international flights to and from all international airports in the country, except for Gwadar and Turbat, from June 20, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement on June 19.
"I see more flights taking off now... that should aid sentiment and support jet fuel prices," a refining source said.
SPILLOVER IMPACT FROM APRIL
The drawdown in Pakistan's domestic inventories was the result of a sharp recovery in domestic demand following the easing of lockdown restrictions in early May, allowing some commercial and industrial activities to resume under strict guidelines, market sources said. The Pakistani government had imposed lockdowns in cities such as Karachi in April, while closing schools and land borders, S&P Global Platts reported earlier.
The restrictions saw Pakistan's motor gasoline consumption fall by around 21% to 437,172 mt for a second consecutive month in April, data from the Oil Companies Advisory Committee, a trade body of fuel retailers, showed.
At the same time, domestic refinery output was tepid with the 155,000 b/d Byco refinery, 100,000 b/d Parco refinery and 50,000 b/d Pakistan refinery among those reportedly running below 100% capacity, market sources said.
Pakistan's domestic refineries typically run at rates above 100%, but as "cracks and refinery margins have [only] slightly improved", refiners have been slow to raise run rates, several Pakistan-based sources said.
"Refineries typically have at least a month lag when reacting to an increase in demand, so naturally when demand picks up so quickly so fast, you would see inventories come down," another source said.