U.S. crude oil exports to Asia last week hit the highest in two months, and the second-highest on record, at 877,000 bpd, according to data from Kpler. There has been a strong upward trend in weekly exports of U.S. crude to the continent, and it looks like this trend is set to continue as shale boomers ramp up production and OPEC is set to extend its production cut agreement.
The biggest buyer of U.S. crude in Asia was South Korea, which took 357,000 bpd of last week’s exports. China came in second, importing 222,000 bpd of U.S. crude, and India completed the top three, buying 151,000 bpd of U.S. oil last week. Indonesia imported 99,000 bpd from the United States, and Japan imported 47,500 bpd. The average daily export rate for U.S. crude to Asia stood at 470,330 barrels over the first three weeks of November.
This trend must have given OPEC a serious headache, although its members are still sending substantial amounts of crude to Asian clients. Since the start of November, according to TankerTrackers data, Saudi Arabia exported an average 1.2 million bpd to Japan, 856,000 bpd to South Korea, and 687,000 bpd to China.
Iraq sent over 730,000 bpd to India, almost 500,000 bpd to China, and over 400,000 bpd to South Korea. Other OPEC members are also sending much of their oil to Asia, but a worry is starting to creep up that U.S. exporters are undermining other players’ market share, benefiting from the discount at which WTI trades to Brent.
They are right to worry: earlier today, the president of Sinopec’s oil trading arm Unipec said that he expected the company to double the amount of U.S. crude it buys next year to satisfy the growing demand of local refiners. This year, Unipec is set to import some 6 million tons of U.S. crude, or 120,000 bpd.