May 3, 2016 / 1:25 PM / 3 years ago

W. African oil sailing east down in May on cooled Chinese buying

* Teapot port congestion, full tanks cool buying
    * India's booking rise on tenders, Reliance purchases
    * Graphic: link.reuters.com/sav75v

    By Libby George
    LONDON, May 3 (Reuters) - Chinese loadings of West African
crude oil fell back from 19-month highs in May as delivery
delays, port congestion and full tanks scuppered interest from
private oil refineries, according to a Reuters survey of
shipping fixtures and traders on Tuesday.
    China's bookings of West African crude fell to 981,000
barrels per day (bpd) for May loading, down from a 19-month high
in April of 1.14 million bpd. Traders had warned for weeks that
logistical bottlenecks and port congestion at Qingdao would make
it difficult for the frenzied purchases from so-called teapot
refiners to continue.  
    An increase in India's purchases, to a four-month high of
roughly 613,000 bpd helped to offset the decline. But overall
bookings still slipped to 1.81 million bpd, their lowest level
since January.    
    Weaker demand from the independent, or teapot, refineries in
China, the world's largest energy consumer, is a red flag not
just for West African oil producers, but for the broader market.
These private refiners were granted licenses to import crude
only last year, and their keen buying was a key source of
support for the roughly 70 percent rally in oil benchmarks since
the beginning of the year. 
    In an interview with Reuters, a senior official from China's
biggest private refiner warned that port congestion and
logistical issues would cut into the teapot buying. 
    Reliance, a private Indian refiner, booked several cargoes,
including Angola's Pazflor, Cabinda and Dalia, Gabon's Olowi and
a cargo of Cameroonian crude. This, along with tenders from
state-run Indian Oil Corp., helped boost the country's
purchases. 
    But Reliance processes a diverse mix of crude, and is
constantly looking to maximise revenue by buying the most cost
effective grades, making it a fickle buyer. It is also looking
to increase purchases from Iran, which could dent its other
bookings.  
       
 COUNTRY    May cargoes  BPD '000s  April        BPD '000s
                                    cargoes      
 CHINA      32           981        36           1,114
 INDIA      20           613        16           507
 INDONESIA  2            61         3            95
 TAIWAN     3            92         4            127
 JAPAN      0            0          0            0
 S. KOREA   0            0          1            32
 OTHERS     2            61         4            127
 TOTAL      59           1,808      64           2,027
   

    
 (Reporting by Libby George, editing by Louise Heavens)
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