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Saudi Arabia turns to UAE and India for diesel imports

Demand for jet fuel, naphtha and VGO also rising

London — Saudi Arabia's thirst for refined product imports has surged as it looks to meet its requirements in the wake of attacks on its key oil infrastructure.

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Several trading sources said state-owned Saudi Aramco's trading arm has already bought diesel cargoes from refiners in India and the UAE. The company was also actively looking to purchase jet fuel and naphtha.

"They have already bought quite a lot from India and some cargoes from UAE," a diesel trader said. "These cargoes are mainly diesel."

An Aramco representative was unavailable for comment.

"The Saudis are trying to buy oil products discreetly, without causing distress signals," a Middle East-based trading source said. "They are starting with fuel oil, naphtha, gasoline, diesel. They have shortages across the board and are going to UAE first."

Shipping sources said that ATC had placed the tanker Lian Bai Hu on subjects to carry a 60,000 diesel cargo from Vadinar to the Persian Gulf for a lump sum of $320,000.

Sources said a fall in domestic refining runs had caused ATC to buy spot barrels of diesel and jet fuel to satiate both its domestic demand as well as supply its international customers.

To meet its October and November crude nominations, Aramco also diverted some of the crude earmarked for its domestic refining system to export. This has resulted in refinery run reductions and caused loading delays for some of the jet fuel and gasoil export cargoes out of Saudi Arabia, sources said.

JET FUEL IMPORTS

The sudden appetite for diesel and jet fuel in Saudi Arabia was tightening supply in both Europe and Asia. Saudi Arabia, which normally exports jet fuel, was now looking to import the product to meet the supply commitment to its customers.

The European jet fuel market has strengthened since the attacks, as much of European jet supply comes from the Persian Gulf, with Saudi Arabia a major supplier of the region.

Saudi Arabia exported 10.55 million mt of jet fuel in 2018, up 44% from 2017, according to data from the Joint Organisations Data Initiative. This comes at a time when the end of the summer holiday season had started to see jet fuel demand wane.

"Saudi is affecting diesel cracks with run cuts on diesel," a trader said. "The stress was on crude initially, but products are massively impacted now."

Saudi Arabia exported 40.78 million mt of diesel in 2018, up 37% from 2017, according to JODI data.

Saudi Arabia was also looking to import vacuum gasoil (VGO), sources said. VGO is a key feedstock used by refiners in a fluid catalytic cracker or hydrocracker to produce gasoline and diesel.

LIGHT ENDS IMPACT

The attacks on Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq crude-processing facility and the Khurais field took 5.7 million b/d of the country's crude production offline. Saudi officials said last week that they hope to restore most of the affected output by the end of September.

The attacks also resulted in an output loss of around 2 Bcf/d of associated gas that produces about 700,000 b/d of NGLs, impacting the naphtha and LPG markets.

Platts Analytics said these attacks have caused "jitters" in both the naphtha and LPG markets. Saudi Arabia is a key exporter of LPG to China and India, and these two countries now rely on other regional producers for their product.

India's oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan thanked the CEO of ADNOC in a tweet for the "supply of two additional LPG cargoes on an urgent basis to meet the incremental LPG demand." "The LPG cargoes will reach India over the next two weeks," he said.

The LPG shortfall will "likely result in an increasing pull on US LPG barrels by Asian LPG buyers, particularly Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, looking to replenish inventories ahead of winter demand season," Platts Analytics said in a recent note.

-- Eklavya Gupte with Gary Clark, Emma Thomas and Tahani Karrar , newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Zac Aiuppa, newsdesk@spglobal.com