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Tue 5 Jan 2010 08:15 PM

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Saudi Arabia increases 'light' oil prices for US

European prices for all crude types to also be raised, while Asian prices are lowered.

Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest state owned oil producer, raised the official selling prices for lower sulfur, or “light” oil grades to be exported to US customers in February.

Saudi Aramco also raised prices for all crude types to be shipped to Europe next month and lowered prices for crude oil varieties sent to refiners in Asia, the Dhahran based company said in an emailed statement.

Saudi Arabia’s state owned producer set the price for its Extra Light crude oil for February loadings for US buyers at a premium of $1 a barrel over the Argus Sour Crude Index, 20 cents higher than January cargoes.

The discount for shipments of light grade crude to the US was narrowed to 60 cents a barrel.

This is the second month Aramco is pricing crude against the ASCI marker, an index of high sulfur oil produced in the Gulf of Mexico.

The benchmark replaces a West Texas Intermediate crude price published by Platts, the energy information division of McGraw Hill Cos.

WTI oil, a lighter, more expensive crude grade, also trades as a futures contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Saudi Arabia has led production cuts announced in 2008 by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and maintained last year to support crude prices.

The Persian Gulf state, OPEC’s largest member and defacto leader, was the second biggest crude exporter to the US after Canada in 2008, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Saudi Arabia and Iraq were the only two OPEC members to trim crude production in December, according to Bloomberg estimates. Saudi Arabia pumped 8.15 million barrels a day last month, 40,000 barrels a day less than in November.

OPEC met in Angola on Dec 22 and agreed to leave official production targets unchanged. Most OPEC members are exceeding their output quotas to take advantage of prices that rallied 78 percent last year.

The following table gives the differentials of the four regions in relation to benchmark prices, the month on month change and the degrees of gravity as defined by the American Petroleum Institute.

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