* Libya picks four top trading houses to buy oil in 2012
* Glencore wins 36 cargoes for next year
* Europe's refiners still given priority
By Jessica Donati and Emma Farge
LONDON, Dec 21 Libya has agreed to supply
oil to four major European trading houses in 2012, a senior
National Oil Corporation (NOC) source said, amounting to at
least 9 percent of its crude exports, in a break from a policy
of restricting sales to refiners.
Glencore and Swiss-based trading giants Vitol,
Gunvor and Trafigura together will receive around 70 cargoes,
the NOC source said on Wednesday, as Libya expands its pool of
This allocation amounts to around 9 percent of Libya's full
pre-war exports of 1.3 million barrels per day, according to
Glencore won 36 cargoes for next year, while Swiss-based
trading giants Vitol, Gunvor and Trafigura got contracts worth
approximately 18 cargoes, 12 cargoes and four cargoes,
respectively, the NOC source said.
Libya's state oil company has typically limited sales of its
mostly light, sweet crude oil to refiners, most of them in
Europe, and has said it plans to continue to prioritise its
usual customers in 2012.
"We made some exceptions for the benefit of the NOC, but not
a big quantity," the NOC source said, adding the lion's share of
Libya's crude oil would be exported to refiners. It will also
award some cargoes to the country's own trader, Oil Libya.
A senior NOC source told Reuters last month that trading
houses would likely be awarded some volumes, calling them a
Libya's oil output has hit 1 million barrels per day, its
oil minister said after an OPEC meeting last week, in a further
sign that its recovery has been more rapid than expected
following an eight-month long conflict.
Despite the inclusion of trading houses, some traders
expressed surprise that they did not receive a bigger volume in
2012, given their role in providing fuel to rebels during the
Most oil majors and European refiners stopped trading with
Libya during the revolution due to concerns about sanctions.
"I'm surprised they (Vitol) are not getting more as they
were seen as bosom buddies during the revolution," said an oil
trader whose firm received Libyan crude allocations.
The exact share awarded to Europe's leading oil refiners
varied, the NOC source said, but volumes were close to five to
six cargoes of crude per month.
Oil traders said that Italy's Saras was one of the
biggest winners, picking up four different grades of crude oil.
The NOC said last week that Repsol, Total, BP
and Eni were among the 10 companies that will
receive priority access to oil.
Libya also plans to sell similar volumes to Chinese
refiners, awarding a "good share" to Unipec, the trading arm of
China's refining giant Sinopec, and to refiner Petrochina
, the NOC source said.
The NOC had also decided to reduce the supply of crude oil
allocated to Star Energy to 10 cargoes per year, the source
Before the war Libya pumped around 1.6 million barrels per
day, and most of the roughly 1.3 million bpd of exports went to
As a result of its limited refining capacity, however, the
OPEC producer relies on imports for close to two-thirds of its
gasoline needs. Libya recently awarded a tender to purchase up
to 3 million tonnes of gasoline in 2012 to a pool of refiners
led by Russia's LUKOIL and Italy's Saras.