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Alaska’s Oil Exports Double Amid Strong Chinese Demand

Alaska’s crude oil exports have more than doubled this year from 2019, as Chinese refiners are purchasing more Alaskan crude, demand for which on the U.S. West Coast has significantly shrunk in the pandemic.

While demand from U.S. West Coast refiners has been subdued, overall Chinese crude oil imports have held strong during the COVID-19 wave in China early this year.

China’s crude imports then soared in the summer months after refiners took advantage of the cheapest crude in decades in April and purchased crude from various places in the world, including Alaska. The discounts of spot cargoes of Canada’s Cold Lake blend, Alaska North Slope, and Brazil’s Lula grades varied between $5 and $9 a barrel to Brent prices, which were below $30 for most of April.    

According to data from commodities research firm Kpler, cited by Bloomberg, Alaska’s crude oil exports have more than doubled year over year to 15.6 million barrels so far in 2020. This would be the highest level of crude oil exports from Alaska in 20 years.

Most of the crude oil exports from Alaska this year have gone to China, where refiners bought 12.3 million barrels of Alaska North Slope, while the other 3.3 million barrels were exported to South Korea, according to Kpler’s data cited by Bloomberg. In 2019, Alaska exported just around 1 million barrels to China. 

The much higher Alaskan oil exports this year have sent the price of Alaska North Slope to trading at a premium to WTI Crude.

While oil demand in Europe and the United States continues to disappoint, refiners in Asia are racing to procure crude from around the world, giving the oil market some hope that at least in one region, demand is strengthening in the fourth quarter.

As many as 20 tankers carrying U.S. crude oil from the U.S. Gulf Coast are expected to begin their journey to Asia in December, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing shipping programs and shipbrokers.   

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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