LONDON (Reuters) - Oil traders are preparing to store diesel in giant tankers off the coasts of northern Europe and New York as land storage tanks are nearly full, traders said on Friday.
Tank capacity levels are above 70 percent in some cases, levels considered near maximum, according to traders.
While the recent glut in global crude oil supplies appears to ease, boosting oil prices, diesel supplies around the world are set to rise sharply in the coming months, according to analysts.
Benchmark diesel barge values in northwest Europe dropped over the past week as huge volumes of the driving fuel reach the region from around the world.
Gasoil stocks, which include diesel, in the Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam (ARA) hub rose in the week to Thursday to a fresh record high of 3.754 million tonnes, data from Dutch consultancy PJK International showed. [ARA/]
The spread between the prompt Low Sulphur Gasoil futures and the November contract, in what as known as contango, has widened in recent days to around $5 a tonne, supporting the case for storage, traders said.
Traders said that Vitol, the world’s top oil trader, has booked two 90,000 tonne tankers off the coast of Britain to store diesel volumes for an extended period of time.
Royal Dutch Shell has also booked a 90,000 tonne tanker to store product outside the New York Harbour, according to traders and shipping brokers.
Though floating storage economics based on the contango and freight rates are currently unworkable for most traders, Vitol and Shell may have decided to book the vessels ahead of an anticipated worsening of the market.
“It is getting really ugly,” a diesel trader said.
Traders have already opted to store jet fuel in tankers in recent weeks.
Weeks of extremely low water levels along the Rhine river, a key artery for delivering products to inland markets in Germany, France and Switzerland, have significantly limited barge traffic, creating a large backlog in the ARA hub and adding further pressure, traders said.
Global diesel supplies are expected to sharply grow in the fourth quarter of 2015, rising by around 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) from a year earlier, according to Vienna-based consultancy JBC Energy.
“European margins are likely to bear the brunt of this,” JBC said in a note.
Huge refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast, Russia, Asia and the Middle East have been shipping in recent months, increasing volumes of diesel to Europe, whose domestic production does not meet demand.
In September, more than 5 million tonnes of diesel were imported into Europe, creating an oversupply of more than 500,000 tonnes, traders said.
Europe, including Turkey, consumes roughly around 16.5 million tonnes of diesel per month.
Reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle