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Mon 15 Aug 2011 09:43 AM

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Saudis entice Asian refiners at expense of Qatar, Oman

OPEC kingpin has ramped up production, eroding demand for other crude

Saudis entice Asian refiners at expense of Qatar, Oman
The Saudis have unilaterally raised crude production to near 10 million barrels per day

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia is enticing Asian refiners to buy more of the kingdom's crude at the expense of other Middle Eastern producers that are offering more barrels on the spot market, as long-term buyers pare purchases of their grades.

Competitive pricing for Saudi crude next month is eroding demand for alternative spot cargoes of Qatari al-Shaheen and Oman crude in October, traders said, adding pressure on price differentials to regional benchmarks.

The Saudis have unilaterally raised crude production to near 10 million barrels per day (bpd) over the summer to meet increasing demand in the third quarter and help lower high prices that threaten the global economy.

Members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries so far have voiced little concern about a drop of about $10 in Brent prices this month, while the International Energy Agency last week warned about slower growth in oil demand if economic growth falters.

Qatar's Tasweeq is selling via tender nine cargoes of heavy sour al-Shaheen crude for loading in October, three more than the previous month, as regular buyers with long-term contracts opt to take less from Qatar and more of rival Saudi crude Arab Medium.

Discussions of al-Shaheen prices has turned to a discount of about 10 cents a barrel to Dubai quotes from premiums as high as 40 cents last month, after the Saudis trimmed the price of Arab Medium crude by $1 for September cargoes.

A drop of 60 cents in the price of Saudi Arab Light is also putting rival Oman crude under pressure, with discounts of about 25 cents a barrel to Dubai quotes against premiums of about 10 cents for the latest cargoes traded last month.

Some traders said chances are increasing that a few Oman cargoes will move to the U.S. west coast as low shipping rates of about $2 a barrel from the Middle East to California re-open this sporadic arbitrage route.

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