US crude exports to Asia are set to swell over March and April as a drop in freight rates makes US cargoes more competitive against barrels from Asia or the Middle East, according to market participants and shipping fixtures Friday.
Industry sources indicated that US crude continued to attract the attention of plenty of Asian buyers as various flagship North American export grades have been consistently trading at a discount against comparable light and medium Persian Gulf grades, S&P Global Platts reported.
"Arbitrage economics remain highly favorable for more US crude purchases. The latest OPEC cut seems to be keeping the Dubai price complex relatively expensive," a senior official at Seoul-based Korea Petroleum Association said.
Freight rates from the US Gulf Coast to Asia have fallen by about a third since early-December, making the case for greater loadings of US crude to the region.
Around 17 very large crude carriers have been fixed to load crude from the US Gulf Coast to Eastern destinations for February-loading cargoes, shipping reports showed, with many more likely booked outside of reported fixtures.
For January-loading cargoes, 16 VLCCs were seen carrying US crude from the US Gulf Coast to eastern destinations.
December-loading US crude cargoes, meanwhile, saw only seven VLCCs leave the US Gulf Coast for the East.