November 24, 2017 / 4:11 AM / 24 days ago

Unipec expects to double U.S. crude imports next year: president

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s Unipec, the trading arm of Asia’s largest oil refiner Sinopec, expects to double the volume of crude oil it imports from the United States next year to feed growing demand from Asian refiners, a company official said on Friday.

Unipec will import 6 million tonnes of U.S. crude oil this year and add to that in 2018, said Chen Bo, company president. Six million tonnes is equal to about 120,000 barrels per day over a year.

“In the long term, Asian refiners will look for new supplies for increasing demand coming from the expansion of refining capacity. The United States has a lot of potential to grow their crude and shale oil production,” he said.

Asian refiners have ramped up their U.S. crude imports in recent months, scooping up lower-cost supplies after hurricanes on the U.S. Gulf Coast curbed refinery demand there at the same time output has risen.

Unipec has dominated that burgeoning trade.

The discount of the U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude benchmark to the Brent crude benchmark widened to the most in years this month, spurring U.S. export purchases. The local appetite for crude was limited as U.S. refineries restarted after closing because of flooding and wind damage in the wake of the storms.

On Friday, the spread was $4.91 per barrel, a big enough discount to make it profitable to export U.S. crude to Asia.

Reporting by Meng Meng and Josephine Mason; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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