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Venezuela pulls naphtha away from Asia-Pacific and turn to Russia



By Argus

Petroleumworld 04 01 2019

Venezuela is turning to Russia for naphtha after US sanctions disrupted supplies, drawing away heavy full-range cargoes once destined for Asia-Pacific.

More heavy full-range naphtha cargoes from the Russian Black Sea port of Tuapse are moving towards Venezuela instead of China and South Korea. The percentage of naphtha exports from Tuapse moving to Asia-Pacific in March has been 20pc compared with 94pc before the US imposed the sanctions on 28 January.

But the extent of the arbitrage is hard to track as shipping fixtures show vessels moving from Tuapse to Malta in the Mediterranean for a ship-to-ship (STS) transfer with the potential destination being Spain or Venezuela, said market participants. A clearer impact will be seen when Russian state-controlled Rosneft's 240,000 b/d Tuapse refinery comes back on line. The refinery is currently having scheduled maintenance, resulting in oil product exports to drop to a two-year low from the port.

Naphtha export cargoes from Tuapse in March have been around 180,000t (1.6mn bl), with about 80pc heading to Malta for STS transfer. Exports from Tuapse in February were at around 280,000t, with about just 30pc heading to Malta, while 180,000t headed to either China or South Korea.

Prior to the US sanctions on Venezuela, Tuapse in January exported 420,000t of naphtha with 94pc moving towards Asia-Pacific and 6pc moving towards west of Suez.

The Tuapse naphtha cargoes are considered a good grade of heavy full-range naphtha with a high naphthenic and aromatic content that make it suitable for splitters to use as a feedstock to produce light naphtha and heavy naphtha. But Asian splitter operators now have to secure alternative supplies, with some traders saying it is a matter of redistributing cargoes as the splitters can take excess cargoes from the US instead of Tuapse.

Venezuela needed a quick solution to secure new naphtha supplies to avoid losing up to a third of its crude exports and a fifth of its production that relied on US diluent supplies now subject to US sanctions. Around 50,000 b/d of imported naphtha is critical to transporting 650,000 b/d of diluted crude oil production from the Orinoco heavy oil belt to Jose on the coast of Anzoategui state.

US sanctions see US companies blocked from exporting diluent to Venezuela. "Of course Venezuela can buy the naphtha elsewhere, but it has to move quickly, because of pricing issues and navigation times," a senior PdV official told Argus.



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