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Tarragona crude imports at six-year high

04 Jul 2016 11:44 (+01:00 GMT)
Tarragona crude imports at six-year high

Barcelona, 4 July (Argus) — Cargoes of crude arriving at the Spanish Mediterranean port of Tarragona were at a six year high in the first four months of the year as the port supplied more gasoline, fuel oil and bitumen to customers.

Deliveries of crude rose to 195,000 b/d between January and April, the highest level for the period since 2010, and up by 19pc compared with the first four months of 2015.

The crude slate supplying integrated Repsol's 180,000 b/d refinery at Tarragona has shifted. Growing supplies from Kazakhstan, Russia and Norway have displaced grades from west Africa, Algeria and Azerbaijan as Repsol exploits competition among suppliers of crude to Mediterranean refineries. Angola remained the biggest crude supplier to Tarragona, shipping 30,000 b/d between January and April, but this was down by 38pc on the same period a year earlier. Then came Kazakhstan with 29,000 b/d, Norway with 23,000 — having supplied no crude to Tarragona in the first four months of 2015 — and Russia with 22,000 b/d. Supplies from Algeria tumbled to under 10,000 b/d from 44,000 b/d and grades from Azerbaijan dried up completely.

Port authority figures suggest Repsol is producing a rising amount of gasoline, with gasoline throughput at the port — the authorities do not split data into import and export — up to 10,000 b/d, an increase of 32pc on January–April 2015 as healthy margins hike output. Fuel oil throughput is up by 15pc at 53,000 b/d while gasoil and diesel volumes fell to 20,000 b/d, down by 56pc on the year as the Mediterranean market remains well supplied.

While Algeria is shipping significantly less crude to Tarragona, it is selling rising amounts of propane, used by Repsol as feedstock for olefin crackers at its petrochemical plant, 5km inland from the port. It sent 205,000 tonnes of propane to Tarragona between January and April, up from 165,000t on the year with US supplies at 105,000t up from 33,000t. Tarragona landed 351,000t of propane in total during the period, up from 218,000t on the year.

As well as Repsol's refinery, crude supplies to Tarragona head to the 1mn t/yr Asesa bitumen plant at the port, a 50:50 joint venture between Repsol and domestic refiner Cepsa. While Spanish domestic bitumen demand is fragile because of the ongoing effects of the financial crisis, exports are booming as Spain supplies rising north African and US consumption. Exports of bitumen leaving Tarragona rose to 315,000t between January and April, up sharply from 195,000t with the US taking 74,000t, and Algeria 72,000t. Asesa is also benefiting from the closure of Morocco's 220,000 b/d refinery at Mohammedia, forcing the country to import 44,000t of Tarragona's bitumen, up tenfold on the same period in 2015.