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Wed 5 May 2010 01:09 AM

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Saudi Arabia raises light crude prices to US, Asia

Arabian Gulf country dropped back from being the US's second biggest exporter to 4th.

Saudi Arabia raises light crude prices to US, Asia
PRICES RAISED: Saudi Aramco has raised the official selling prices for all light and medium crude grades for customers in the US and Asia in June. (Getty Images)

Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest state owned oil company, raised the official selling prices for all light and medium crude grades for customers in the US and Asia in June.

The company increased the formula price of its Arab Extra Light crude exports to the US the most, raising it by 35 cents a barrel to $1.70 above the Argus Sour Crude Index, the Dhahran based oil company said in an emailed statement today.

The price of light crude to the US rose 5 cents to 35 cents a barrel below the Argus benchmark, while the Medium crude price was increased by the same amount to a $2.15 a barrel discount. The price of heavy crude exports to the US fell, dropping 10 cents to a discount of $3.70, Aramco said.

Export prices to the Far East were increased by between 10 and 30 cents for all crude types with the exception of heavy crude, which was left unchanged, according to the price list.

Saudi Arabia was the fourth biggest exporter of crude to the US last year, dropping back from second place in 2008, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration. Canada, Mexico and Venezuela all shipped more crude to the US in 2009, the data show.

June marks the sixth month Aramco is pricing crude against the ASCI marker, an index of high sulfur oil produced in the Gulf of Mexico. The benchmark replaced 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.

The largest member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the group’s defacto leader, Saudi Arabia has led production cuts announced in 2008 to support crude prices.

OPEC decided at a March 17 meeting in Vienna to leave production quotas unchanged. Most OPEC members are exceeding their output quota to take advantage of prices that rallied 78 percent last year.

The Arabian Gulf state pumped 8.26 million barrels a day in April, 60,000 barrels a day more than in March and more than 200,000 above its OPEC quota, according to Bloomberg estimates.

Saudi Arabia, which has joint venture refinery projects in China, is seeking to strengthen its role as a supplier to Asia as demand from the US and Europe has slipped with the global financial crisis.

The biggest oil exporter agreed in February to raise crude supply to India to 40 million tons a year, or about 770,000 barrels a day, from 25.5 million tons a year, India’s Oil Ministry said in a statement after a meeting between the top crude officials from both countries.

The exporter has supplied full crude volumes to refiners in Asia since December. It lowered prices on most crude grades for shipment to Asia in February, March and April.

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. Prices are in US dollars a barrel.

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