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Russian Urals crude tumbles as US demand hopes fade

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Platts M2MS-Power

Russian Urals crude tumbles as US demand hopes fade

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Russia's Urals crude has plunged more than $1/b in value in the past two sessions as local dynamics threw cold water on a bidding fervor that came about on market talk the grade could be a replacement for US sour streams shut in by Hurricane Ida.

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Urals CIF Rotterdam was assessed Sept. 14 by S&P Global Platts at Dated Brent minus $2.10/b, down from a seven-month high of Dated Brent minus $1.025/b on Sept. 10.

Prompt-loading cargoes of the grade were particularly pressured, with Gunvor, in the Platts Market on Close assessment process, offering a parcel loading Sept. 24-28 at Dated Brent minus $2.35/b CFR Rotterdam without finding a buyer.

"The reason for the Urals crash is very clear. There were four cargoes added to the [September] program and there were big Saudi term allocations for Europe," one trader said. "There are small pockets of arb demand out of the region to Asia and the US, but not too much."

The cargoes were added to the Baltic loading program, sources said, adding that the additional seaborne supply could be in part due to a shutdown of the northern branch of the Druzhba pipeline, which supplies the grade to inland refineries.

Russian pipeline operator Transneft said Sept. 13 that crude deliveries via the branch had been suspended Sept. 11-14 due to restrictions on uptake at Adamowo-Zastawa because of full storage levels at Germany's 220,000 b/d PCK Schwedt refinery.

US demand hype fades

As well as seeing steady demand for September barrels, Urals had been driven to its previous high by expectations that, as a prompt-trading medium sour, it would act as a replacement for US sour grade Mars, where production has been affected by Hurricane Ida.

There was talk that Urals would see Asian support as a result of the outage too.

"I heard some [Chinese buyers] pick up Urals to compensate the loss of Mars," a trader with a North Asian refinery said.

US production has been gradually returning and the US Department of Energy has authorized releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Over two weeks since Ida made landfall, 720,217 b/d, or 40%, of the Gulf's oil production, remained offline, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said Sept. 14.

The region has been preparing for potential disruption from Hurricane Nicholas, which earlier in the week made landfall in Texas.

"With Nicholas shutting [refinery] runs in Texas and offshore platforms coming back, the sour [crude] balance in the USGC is now turning long and these Urals cargoes are no longer needed," another trader said.