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Asian gasoline cash premium hits one-year high on tight supplies

Singapore — The Asian gasoline cash premium, the spread between FOB Singapore 92 RON physical cargo and MOPS Strip, hit a one-year high Tuesday as spot physical cargo offerings in the region became much less abundant over the course of October while buying interest soared.

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The premium reached $1.16/b Tuesday, the highest since hitting $1.35/b on October 26, 2015.

Traders pointed to a much tighter balance for November, with export supplies in the Middle East and India expected to dry up.

ARAMCO, RELIANCE TURNAROUND

Saudi Arabia, the biggest gasoline exporter in the Middle East, will see two major refineries going into turnaround in November and December.

Saudi Aramco plans to shut units at the 400,000 b/d Yasref refinery for a month from early November. The joint-venture refinery, co-owned with Sinopec, produces up to 90,000 b/d of gasoline.

Aramco also plans to shut units at the 550,000 b/d Ras Tanura refinery for 45 days from early December. The wholly owned refinery produces up to 120,000 b/d of gasoline.

Article Continues below...

There will be an even bigger production loss in India, with Asia's biggest gasoline exporter, Reliance Industries, planning a five-week shutdown of its 200,000 b/d fluid catalytic cracker at the 660,000 b/d DTA plant starting the second week of November.

Gasoline production during the period will decrease by at least 400,000 mt, according to Platts calculations.

Although the DTA plant is focused on the domestic market, Reliance is expected to cut export volumes significantly, hence reducing supplies to the Middle East, its biggest export destination.

LIMITED NORTH ASIAN SUPPLIES

Although most North Asian producers will have completed turnarounds in November, exports are not expected to rebound strongly due to inventory replenishment in Japan and smaller gasoline yields in South Korea and Japan during winter, trade sources said.

Heavy turnarounds during October cut Japan's gasoline stocks to around only 1.5 million kiloliters, or about 10 days' consumption, industry data showed.

Heating demand in winter prompts Japanese and Korean refineries to adjust product yields to increase output of middle distillates at the expense of gasoline, which reduces availability of gasoline for export.

Supplies from South Korea are not expected to rebound significantly in November once SK's Incheon refinery restarts at the end of October from a full maintenance shutdown because the company plans to begin maintenance at the No. 2 fluid catalytic cracker at its 840,000 b/d Ulsan refinery from early November until late November.

SK is South Korea's biggest gasoline exporter and Ulsan is SK's key export facility.

There is also a large amount of uncertainty surrounding supplies from independent refineries in China.

These relatively small producers, which face much bigger logistics costs to export than state-owned refineries, will need to utilize as much as possible export quotas awarded by the government so that when they apply for next year's quotas the government will hand out the volumes they desire.

However, the government has been cracking down on grey tax areas in gasoline production and sales by these independents in recent weeks, which sharply reduced their economic incentive to export.

--Dexter Wang, dex.wang@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jonathan Fox, jonathan.fox@spglobal.com