WTI Midland is now the world’s largest freely traded grade of crude oil by output and volume. In December 2015, the US lifted a 40-year ban that had restricted exports of US crude overseas. Since the ban was lifted, export volumes have soared and US crude now makes its way to markets all over the world.

The meteoric rise of US crude on the global stage has made Permian basin crude WTI Midland the world’s most important grade and has put the US Gulf coast at the epicentre of global crude trade. Houston is the point of greatest optionality for crude oil. From Houston, crude can be refined in the world’s largest refining centre, moved domestically within the world’s largest oil demand hub, and exported to all corners of the globe. Price dictates these options, making the price at Houston the source of all key comparisons.

Light sweet WTI Midland is now firmly at the centre of price discovery for crude oil. It is a key component of Dated Brent and the global swing barrel, and European and Asian buyers are beginning to purchase crude on a WTI Houston basis. This crude has truly emerged as the heartbeat of the global crude system.


A global waterborne crude, underpinned by a liquid pipeline market

In most major markets, crude oil is generally transported by water. But the WTI Houston and Midland markets are different, with oil travelling first by pipeline in small, rateable transactions. The high volume of daily transactions means that there are many points of price discovery throughout the day. Our expert team of crude oil market reporters endeavour to capture it all.

Cargo markets by nature consist of a few, large single trades. But at the US Gulf coast, cargoes are priced at a differential to the pipeline market, so they benefit from the underlying price dynamics of the highly liquid and transparent US pipeline market.

For this reason, understanding the WTI supply chain and the drivers of its price formation is imperative for anyone buying, selling or trading crude oil across the globe.


WTI and Argus, a deeply rooted relationship

For two decades, Argus WTI assessments at Midland and Houston have been the standard physical benchmarks for US crude, as well as the settlement indexes for a robust derivatives market. These prices are assessed as differentials to the Argus WTI formula basis, based on the Nymex light sweet crude futures contract — one of the world’s most actively traded oil futures. They are the clear choice for trading companies seeking to manage WTI positions in the physical and paper markets.

Argus WTI Houston and Argus WTI Midland collectively form the basis of the world’s third-largest crude oil derivatives market, after Nymex light sweet and Ice Brent. The contracts are actively traded over the counter and cleared by oil brokers through exchanges such as CME and Ice.

Our rich, deep and trusted coverage of the US crude oil market is unrivalled. You need Argus to make confident business decisions.

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