Iraq Sends Millions of Barrels of Oil to U.S. While Saudis Cut

Jun 16, 2017

Iraq is driving up crude oil exports to the U.S., the world’s second-biggest import market, just as there are signs Saudi Arabia is honoring a pledge to restrict such deliveries, according to tanker-tracking data.

The second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries loaded 12 million barrels of crude for the U.S. in the first 13 days of this month, the tracking shows. That’s about 50 percent higher than the same period in either April or May. Comparable Saudi Arabian flows slumped by about half. Iraq isn’t fully complying with pledges to OPEC to curb production, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday.

“It’s like the IEA report said, some members have been less than wholly diligent,” Giovanni Staunovo, a Zurich-based commodity analyst at UBS Group AG, said of Iraq’s early June shipments. The fact that Iraq contested parts of the plan to cut output when the accord was implemented in November mean it’s “no surprise” to see flows rising now, he said.

While Iraq is among OPEC nations that pledged to restrict production to eliminate a global glut, there are signs that it may nonetheless be gaining a share of key import markets. The country’s crude flooded into the U.S. in late May and early June, just as Saudi Arabia’s flows diminished, weekly Energy Information Administration data show. Iraq also passed Saudi Arabia as the number one supplier to India, the fastest growing oil consumer.

The flow surge should show up in U.S. imports data sometime in late July. Tankers loading in the Persian Gulf take about 45 days to reach either the Gulf of Mexico or refining centers on the U.S. west coast. Equally, shipments could now decrease making the monthly tally lower than the near 1 million barrels a day average over June’s first 13 days.

The IEA said Wednesday that Iraq’s rate of compliance with OPEC, non-OPEC curbs is about 55 percent, while Saudi Arabia is among nations conforming in full.

As well as eight tankers that left Iraq’s Basra Oil Terminal and signaled U.S. destinations, there are seven more that either aren’t indicating where they’re going, or they’re bound for Egypt’s Suez Canal. Some of those could go still to the U.S.

The tracking data, which are for a relatively small time-span, show Saudi Arabian shipments in retreat. Three tankers were observed heading to the U.S. after departing the world’s biggest exporter in early June, hauling about 6 million barrels between them. That’s down from 14 million barrels in the same period in May.

Decreased Saudi Arabian shipments would be consistent with comments from the country’s Energy Minister, Khalid Al-Falih. He said at OPEC’s meeting in late May that there would be a “marked” decrease in the kingdom’s shipments to the U.S.

Saudi Arabia’s oil allocations to customers will be cut for July from their June levels, a person with knowledge of the matter said June 12, asking not to be identified because the information is confidential. About half of a 600,000 barrels-a-day nominations cut will fall on U.S. customers, the person said.

“That’s a bit of a new signal that the Saudis are willing to give up a bit of market share,” Michael Poulsen, analyst at A/S Global Risk Management, said of the relative changes in Saudi Arabia and Iraq’s shipments.

Source: Bloomberg