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Saudis have not asked for crude after attacks: Iraqi oil minister

Dubai — Saudi Arabia has not asked Iraq for crude supplies, Iraqi oil minister Thamir al-Ghadhban said Thursday, denying reports that his country had fielded a request from its neighbor to compensate for a shortfall caused by the weekend's attacks on two key facilities.

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"KSA has never asked us to purchase Iraqi crude oil," Ghadhban told S&P Global Platts, using the acronym for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. "We have kept our export and production as they were before."

Platts reported Wednesday that Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil company, Aramco, had approached Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization for Basrah Light barrels to run in the kingdom's refineries, with market sources saying a request had been for 10 million barrels for October or November loadings.

One source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Platts that SOMO had not yet agreed to "comply" with this request as it has to meet its obligations with its term holders.

Saudi Aramco declined to comment.

Factbox: Attacks on Saudi oil units affecting major Asian crude buyers differently

The attacks Saturday on Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq crude processing facility -- the world's largest -- and the giant Khurais field had taken 5.7 million b/d of the kingdom's crude production offline, though Saudi officials said late Tuesday that they hope to restore most of the affected output within two weeks.

Abqaiq was processing some 2 million b/d of crude Tuesday, down from 4.9 million b/d before the attacks, Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said at a press briefing.

AFFECTED SAUDI GRADES

The Saudi grades most affected by Saturday's attacks are Arab Light and Arab Extra Light, both of which are popular in Asia and Europe. Production of Arab Light and Arab Extra Light averaged 5.50 million b/d and 1.53 million b/d in 2018, respectively, according to Platts estimates.

Trading sources said Saudi Aramco had already notified some of its customers that because of this outage, its Arab Medium and Arab Heavy grades would be substituted for some of the supplies.

Basrah Light is similar in quality to Arab Heavy, a key feedstock for Saudi refineries.

Arab Heavy is classified as a medium sour crude, with a specific gravity of 27.80 API and a sulfur content of 2.75%, while Basrah also is of medium sour quality, with 28.80 API and 3.16% sulfur.

OPEC NONCOMPLIANCE

Just last week, Saudi Arabia had publicly pressured Iraq to bring its crude production down in line with its OPEC output quota, after months of noncompliance.

Ghadhban had pledged in a press conference with Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman in Abu Dhabi that Iraq, which overproduced its quota by 270,000 b/d in August according to OPEC's own figures, would lower its output by 175,000 b/d in September and reach full compliance by October.

The lower output would be the result of lower domestic demand and the beginning of refinery maintenance, he said.

Iraq pumped a record 4.88 million b/d in August, according to the latest Platts survey of OPEC output, compared with its quota of 4.51 million b/d. Iraq's self-reported output is lower, at 4.65 million b/d for August, but still in excess of its agreed-upon cap.

"We have no intention to exceed our quota," Ghadhban told Platts Thursday.

Iraq's crude exports have been on the rise in recent months, climbing to 4.05 million b/d in August from 4 million b/d in July and 3.95 million b/d in June, according to SOMO's figures, which include shipments from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

-- Miriam Malek, miriam.malek@spglobal.com

-- Eklavya Gupte, eklavya.gupte@spglobal.com

-- Herman Wang, herman.wang@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Bill Montgomery, newsdesk@spglobal.com