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Tight October expected for fuel oil in Northwest Europe on vessel loadings and coker launch

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Tight October expected for fuel oil in Northwest Europe on vessel loadings and coker launch

London — Fuel oil availability in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp hub in October could be tight after an uptick in vessel loadings this month and with ExxonMobil expected to stop offering RMG 380 CST fuel from its 320,000 b/d Antwerp refinery, traders said.

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"Looking forward, there is a large chunk of the market that is going to be taken out," a fuel oil trader said. "We have more vessel loadings than previously and the Exxon coker is coming up."

Three vessels -- two VLCCs and a Suezmax -- were expected to load fuel from Rotterdam for discharge in Singapore in the coming days, taking approximately 670,000 mt from the region.

That will take fuel oil loadings for Singapore in September to just under 1 million mt, in comparison with just under 700,000 mt in July and August.

Meanwhile, the Antwerp refinery will stop supplying RMG 380 CST from October 12, according to sources. ExxonMobil is introducing a delayed coker unit to limit the production of heavy fuel oil in favor of lighter more valuable products.

Fuel oil traders estimated that will mean a loss of 200,000 mt/month, tightening the market with the International Maritime Organization's lower 0.5% global marine sulfur cap looming at the start of 2020.

ExxonMobil said at the end of August it expected the new delayed coker at Antwerp "to be fully operational in 2018". It has previously said the start-up was a complex process "and can take several months".

The anticipation of a tighter market has maintained a prominent backwardation on the 3.5% FOB Rotterdam barge structure. The October-November spread traded on ICE at $4.25/mt Wednesday morning.

Typically at this time of the year, the backwardation begins to soften due to lower demand for power generation requirements in the Middle East.

However, the expected reduction in supply from refinery upgrades and the ongoing fall in exports from Russia, which has been modernizing its refineries, has kept the backwardation supported, sources said.

Fuel oil stocks in ARA fell 143,000 mt to 1.138 million mt in the seven days to Wednesday, September 19, PJK International data showed.

--Eleni Pittalis, eleni.pittalis@spglobal.com

--Edited by Dan Lalor, daniel.lalor@spglobal.com