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Brazil's Buzios crude makes inroads to China, some traction seen

Highlights

Buzios production ramps up; more Tupi diverted to domestic use

Buzios differentials currently at parity-to-slight-discount to Tupi

Brazil's Buzios crude is set to make further inroads into China in the coming months, as production from the Buzios field ramps up and state producer Petrobras diverts more of its key Chinese export grade Tupi crude for domestic use.

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Sources within Petrobras said the company has been channeling more volumes of Tupi towards its own system in recent months, while turning its focus to Buzios for export markets.

"The main reason for the increasing exports of Buzios crude is the increasing production from the oil field," a crude oil seller said.

Buzios pumped 535,193 b/d in August, according to the latest production report from Brazil's National Petroleum Agency. Output from the field is expected to hit 2 million b/d by 2030, S&P Global Platts reported earlier.

In addition, China National Offshore Oil Company is set to raise its stake in the Buzios field from 5% to 10%, according to a Petrobras statement Sept. 29, further cementing the grade as a potentially major new entrant in China.

Petrobras currently owns 90% of the Buzios field, with the remaining 10% split equally between CNOOC and China National Petroleum Corp.

"With CNOOC and CNPC marketing the grade in China, its popularity could increase with Chinese refineries as they become more familiar with the grade," said a crude oil seller.

"While most Chinese refineries currently buy Buzios at a discount to Tupi, increasing popularity could cause that discount to shrink in the future," he said.

In terms of quality, Buzios and Tupi are fairly similar. A 2018 assay report showed Buzios has an API gravity of 28.4 and sulfur content of 0.308%, while Tupi crude, then named Lula, had an API gravity of 30.5 and sulfur content of 0.351%, a 2013 assay report showed. Buzios yields slightly more residuals than Tupi, the assays showed.

Some buyers outside China value Buzios higher as it can be used to produce IMO compliant low sulfur fuel oil, said the seller.

Traded levels

Most recently, December arrival barrels of Buzios crude were heard traded in the market at a premium of $3s/b to February ICE Brent, DES China, according to traders.

"Buzios is flat to 30 cents/b discount to Tupi, depending on different buyers," said a China-based crude oil trader.

On Oct. 14, Platts assessed the differential for Tupi crude at a premium of $3.53/b to Asian Dated Brent, delivered Qingdao, up from $1.70/b on the month from Sept. 14.

Meanwhile, traders saw clarity on the 4th batch of Chinese import quotas, where sentiment remained dull, according to sources.

China's qualified refineries, mostly independent refineries, have been allocated the final batch of crude oil import quotas for 2021 at 14.89 million mt.

The new allocation brought the total quota allocation to 171.75 million mt to 43 refineries. This is 4.3% lower than the total allocation of 179.4 million mt for 2020 to 44 qualified refineries, Platts reported earlier.

Chinese independent refiners' January-September imports of Brazilian heavy sweet Tupi crude tumbled 46.7% year on year to 6.07 million mt. The imports of Buzios, on the other hand, fell 34.1% on the year to 1.35 million mt over January-September.

Dongming Petrochemical, Hualian Petrochemical, ChemChina, as well as Haike Petrochemical are the major takers of those Buzios cargoes which arrived over March-June 2021.