West African crude oil exports to Asia will rise slightly in January versus December, according to data compiled by Reuters, with stronger demand from India offsetting a fall in exports to China.
Asia is expected to import 1.81 million barrels per day (bpd) of West African crude in January versus 1.75 million in December, with China importing 33 cargoes and India 18, according to data based on movements seen by oil traders.Strong economic growth in China and other emerging economies has driven a rapid increase in demand for crude oil in Asia, where imports of West African crude oil rise sharply since 2007.
West African crude oil is typically "sweet", meaning it contains low levels of corrosive sulphur compounds, and it meets Asian demand for heavy industrial fuel oil and distillates such as kerosene.
Nigerian and Angolan oil exports are now competing with new U.S. domestic production of sweet crudes from shale formations in Texas and North Dakota, which have exerted downward pressure on prices of high quality oil.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration, the independent statistical arm of the Department of Energy, said that U.S. crude oil production would grow by 900,000 barrels per day in 2013 to 7.3 million bpd. The increase in shale production so far has cut U.S. imports of West African crude by over 1 million bpd, which has further increased the leading role played by Asian buyers in the market.
In total for 2012, refiners in China, India, Indonesia and other Asian countries bought more than 660 West African crude oil cargoes this year, carrying a record 1.72 million bpd. This was up from just under 600 cargoes in 2011 and compares with 656 cargoes in 2010, the previous record year.