By Tsvetana Paraskova of OilPrice.com
Asian refiners and traders expect top crude exporter Saudi Arabia to once again hike significantly the prices of its crude going to Asia in May to a record premium over the Middle Eastern benchmarks, a Bloomberg survey showed on Tuesday.
The soaring oil prices and the “buyers’ strike” over purchasing Russian crude could be an opportunity for Russia’s key ally in the OPEC+ pact, OPEC’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia, to hike its official selling prices (OSPs) to another all-time high over the Oman/Dubai benchmark, off which Middle Eastern crude is priced in Asia.
Per the Bloomberg survey of five traders and refiners, Saudi Arabia’s oil giant Aramco could increase its OSP for May for Asia for Arab Light—the Kingdom’s flagship grade—by a massive $5 per barrel to a premium of nearly $10 a barrel over the Oman/Dubai benchmark.
Earlier in March, Saudi Aramco lifted its April price to Asia for its flagship grade to $4.95 a barrel premium over Oman/Dubai, which was the largest ever premium of Arab Light to the Middle East benchmark.
If in early April Saudi Aramco raises the price of Arab Light for May by as much as traders and refiners in the Bloomberg poll expect, Arab Light will be sold in Asia in May at a premium of $9.95 per barrel over the Oman-Dubai benchmark. This would be a new record differential for the Saudi crude prices to Asia.
Saudi Arabia generally sets the pricing trends of the other major Middle Eastern oil producers, and it usually sets the OSPs of its crude for the following month around the fifth of each month, typically after the monthly OPEC+ meeting.
The meeting of the OPEC+ group is scheduled for March 31, and producers have signaled they would keep the production plan as-is, that is, raising the OPEC+ collective production quota by 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) for May.