May 3, 2023

OPEC+ oil exports remain steady in April as a boost in Saudi supply offsets disruptions in Nigeria and Iraq

The market has erased all price gains that had followed the OPEC+ decision to cut supply last month – although it has only started to get implemented this month. The group’s export trends have not helped support prices in April, as their total level remained stable near 28 Mbd when excluding Iran and Venezuela. Higher exports from Saudi Arabia and Russia offset declines from Nigeria, Iraq and Kazakhstan, while the group’s crude inventories remained stable at 259 Mbbls.

OPEC+ seaborne oil exports finished just under 28.0 Mbd through April, up by a mere five kbd m/m when excluding Iran and Venezuela. A combination of force majeure and sabotage attacks weighed on Nigerian shipments (-403 kbd m/m) whilst loading operations continue to be halted for northern Iraqi crude at Ceyhan, burdening the country’s export level (-225 kbd). On the other side, however, robust Saudi crude has pushed the kingdom’s oil exports to their highest level since April 2020 and the price war that took place then at the height of the covid crisis. At 7.74 Mbd, Saudi oil exports were up by 395 kbd m/m. Elsewhere, Russia managed to divert more flows to exports as maintenance season continues: its seaborne oil exports were up by 74 kbd to 3.73 Mbd, the highest level in 11 months, while issues at Kuwait’s Al-Zour refinery boosted crude shipments by 93 kbd.

Despite the latest flagship OPEC+ agreement from a month ago, Saudi oil supply has been more than robust in April. Our latest export data has pushed us to revise our Saudi crude supply estimate upwards by 400 kbd to 10.6 Mbd in April. Indeed, Saudi oil exports (including Aramco’s half of the Neutral Zone) have edged higher last month, boosting by 395 kbd to 7.74 Mbd, a new post-pandemic high. However, Aramco is likely readying itself for the cuts, which are to be implemented from 1st May. Oil exports have fallen to 7.22 Mbd in the second half of April, against 8.16 Mbd in the first half of the month. We believe Saudi’s May export volumes will likely average around 7.2 Mbd.

Nigeria has seen the largest m/m decline, with its exports falling 403 kbd compared to March, down to an average of 1.25 Mbd in April, a seven-month low. A combination of strikes at the ExxonMobil-operated FPSOs and sabotage attacks delaying loadings at Forcados, have reduced the pace of crude loadings. As a result, exports of the medium sweet Forcados and light sweet Qua Iboe grades were among the most impacted, declining by 63 kbd each, down to a monthly average of 188 kbd and 99 kbd, respectively. Exports to NWE particularly took a hit, falling by 337 kbd m/m to 235 kbd, almost a two-year low. This is while they should have benefited from the end of refinery strikes in France.

Other African producers of light sweet oil managed to benefit from France’s comeback and Nigeria’s concerns: Algerian oil exports bounced by 155 kbd to climb back above 500 kbd, a similar level to February. Shipments to NWE were up by 50 kbd, and those to the MED up by 64 kbd. Stronger demand for Sonatrach’s Saharan blend has pushed the grade’s price up to a discount of just $0.25/bbl at the time of writing against one of $1.25/bbl two weeks ago. Likewise, Angola managed to boost its shipments by 62 kbd to 987 kbd, although these have remained under 1 Mbd for the third month in a row, highlighting the country’s short-term upstream issues, albeit maintenance at Dalia has kept production in check too. Loadings of the heavy Dalia blend jumped back from zero in March to 96 kbd. Most of Angola’s export increase went to the Madre de Deus terminal in Brazil, likely a result of pricing arbitrages given the imported crude is medium sweet, similar in quality to most Brazilian production.

Unsurprisingly, the halting of loading operations at Ceyhan continues to weigh on Iraq’s total oil exports. The country’s exports were lower by 225 kbd m/m to a total of 3.3 Mbd, the lowest level in two years. While exports of Basrah crude managed to increase by 126 kbd, no loadings of KBT or Kirkuk blends occurred. Despite a temporary agreement between Baghdad and Erbil over the restart of flows, Turkey is opposing their resumption, officially because they need to examine any potential threats after the recent earthquakes that hit the region. It is over a month after the latest cargo loaded from the installation. One VLCC, the Nissos Kea, and one Aframax, the Dali, have been waiting to load since late March in the area. Elsewhere, Kazakhstan’s oil exports out of CPC did fall back as we did expect a month ago. Kazakh oil shipments were lower by 113 kbd to 1.26 Mbd, but this comes after hitting a record level in March.

Lastly, loading operations at Bashair in Sudan have been unaffected – thus far – by the power battle that erupted two weeks ago in Khartoum. Shipments even jumped by 35% to 105 kbd, but these variations are not unusual given the low volumes. Three cargoes have loaded since mid-April with the latest one taking the crude on 1st May, indicating that the situation remains normal around the pipeline and the port. However, the likelihood that ongoing fighting eventually spread to Bashair is high, potentially knocking around 100 kbd of crude supply, mainly to Eastern Asia, although most Sudanese and South Sudanese crude reaches Asia via Fujairah.

OPEC+ seaborne oil exports variation in April (kbd)

Exports remained steady despite supply disruptions in Nigeria and Iraq

Source: Kpler

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