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Norway becomes top 10 crude supplier to China's independent refining sector in Nov

Singapore — Norway became a top 10 crude supplier to China's independent refineries in November, while Far East Russian ESPO Blend remained the No. 1 feedstock grade in the month, a monthly survey by S&P Global Platts showed Thursday.

Crude imports from Norway shot to 10th spot in November from zero earlier due to purchases of its new export grades by China's independent refiners, including Grane Blend, Heidrun and Balder. Grane Blend is a medium density, medium sulfur crude with an API of around 29 and sulfur content of around 0.59%, while Heidrun is a heavy, medium sulfur crude with an API of around 20.4 and sulfur content of around 0.79%.

The two grades, which were imported by Jincheng Petrochemical, were co-loaded from Norway on a VLCC.

Hongrun Petrochemical imported 84,000 mt of the new Balder crude grade from Norway in November; a relatively heavy, naphthenic, regular sulfur crude with an API of 26.4 and sulfur content of 0.64%.

The three grades were likely imported to cater for growing demand for low sulfur fuel oil given their relatively low sulfur contents, sources said.

Top crude oil suppliers to China's independent refineries

ESPO STILL POPULAR

Imports of Russian ESPO Blend crude fell 17.9% on month to 1.79 million mt in November from a four-month high of 2.18 million mt in October, but the volume remained 12.7% higher than the second-most imported grade by China's independent sector, Brazil's Lula, Platts survey showed.

China's independent refiners typically increase ESPO procurements late year because it is a preferred feedstock for producing low pour point gasoil in winter.

In 2018, ESPO arrivals for the sector rose from 737,000 mt in August to a record high 2.47 million mt in November.

Imports are expected to increase further next year and ESPO will likely remain a preferred feedstock for most Shandong refineries, refinery sources said.

The November arrival ESPO was shared among seven refineries and trading company Gaida: ChemChina took five 100,000 mt cargoes, Lijin Petrochemical four, Kenli Petrochemical three and Luqing Petrochemical two.

The sector's appetite for Urals also remained high at 430,000 mt in November, up 13.8% on month, imported mainly by ChemChina, and Hebei Xinhai Petrochemical. Urals competes with Oman, imports of which were down 4.7% on month at 792,000 mt in November.

MORE AUSTRALIAN CARGOES

The first heavy sweet Vincent crude imported by Xintai Petrochemical from Australia at end October was followed by two Vincent cargoes in November; 81,000 mt by Xintai and 80,000 mt by Haisheng, a trading company with a close relationship to Xintai, and market sources said that cargo could eventually go to Xintai.

Relatively strong demand for gasoil could have prompted the purchase of the grade, sources at refineries in Shandong said.

The Vincent crude was likely priced at a discount to other Australian heavy, sweet crudes as its quality was unstable for the first few cargoes after production resumed in August from a one-year suspension, S&P Global Platts reported earlier.

Trade sources said the November-arrival Vincent crude cargoes were likely bought at premiums of around $7-$8/b to ICE Brent, DES Shandong, below November-loading traded premiums for fellow Australian heavy, sweet grades Pyrenees and Van Gogh crude at around $13/b to Platts Dated Brent, FOB.

SAUDI SUPPLY

The independent sector's crude imports from Saudi Arabia fell 7.2% on month to 1.36 million mt in November, delivered in five VLCC cargoes; four to Hengli Petrochemical (Dalian) and one to Zhejiang Petroleum and Chemical. ZPC is due to receive another cargo from Saudi Arabia in early December, co-loaded with Arab Medium and Arab Light.

However over January-November, total imports from Saudi Arabia surged 583.4% on year, the biggest spike among the top 10 suppliers, with most of the barrels shared by same two new greenfield refineries as in November.

Platts' November survey covers barrels imported for 38 refineries with quotas and others without quotas through ports mostly in Shandong province, as well as Tianjin, Zhoushan and Dalian.

-- Analyst Daisy Xu, daisy.xu@spglobal.com

-- Andrew Toh, andrew.toh@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Wendy Wells, wendy.wells@spglobal.com