Light Barrels Doing Some Heavy Lifting

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Libya’s overall oil and condensate exports through January have hit the brakes due to the ongoing force majeure at El Sharara, as well as the inclement weather that disrupted loadings at eastern ports earlier in the month. Libya exported 647,000 bpd of crude and condensate in January, a big drop from the 1mn bpd exported in December. This shortfall has been most noticeable in exports of light Libyan crude to France.

On January 11, Aframax Alpine Amalia discharged some 599,200 bbls of light sour Mesla from Libya at the French port of Lavera. This is the only shipment of light Libyan crude we saw last month heading to France, compared to much higher volumes over the last two years. Libyan flows into France last month dropped to a multi-year low. 

Seemingly to offset this drop, France has taken in more light Nigerian crude. As the chart below illustrates, Nigerian barrels to France are at the highest monthly pace seen in recent years.  

France light crude imports ClipperData

On the whole, exports of light Libyan crude have plunged to Northwest Europe, where we saw them at 20,000 bpd last month, compared with 124,000 bpd in December and an average of 161,000 bpd across 2018.

To make matters worse, exports of Kazakhstan’s CPC Blend have been on the decline as well. Instead of Northwest Europe, increasing volumes of CPC Blend are being pulled into the Eastern Mediterranean, notably Turkey.     

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We have seen 190,000 bpd of CPC Blend discharged in Northwest Europe in January, a drop from 318,000 bpd in December, and an even bigger drop compared to the 2018 average of 381,000 bpd. In a similar fashion to France, as CPC Blend volumes have waned into Northwest Europe, another light crude grade has stepped up to take its place – US crude.

We have seen a stark trend of rising light US crude imports into Northwest Europe in recent months, with January marking the highest pace yet since the lifting of the US oil export ban. As a trend is emerging of VLCCs heading to Rotterdam, these volumes look set to be buoyed going forward.  

US light and CPC crude imports into NW Europe

Meanwhile, the Kazakh barrels are on their way to Turkey, but have yet to discharge. The reason that Turkey is pulling in so much more CPC Blend is to offset the loss of light Iranian barrels from the US sanctions imposed in November.

Turkey has also seen an uptick in light Nigerian barrels, with three consecutive months of imports after a nine-month absence. And we come a full circle to finish where we started – with Libya. As Turkey looks to plug the gap left by Iranian losses, it is increasingly pulling in light Libyan barrels – despite their recent lesser availability. 

Turkey light crude imports clipperdata