Mysterious Chinese Buyer Of Record Crude Oil Cargoes Revealed

Last week we noted a near-record number of VLCC oil tankers sailing towards Chinese ports as we speculated that the world's largest economy looked to rebuild its strategic petroleum reserve at low-low prices. Now we know... as Bloomberg reports, China National United Oil Co., a unit of the country’s biggest energy company, bought the most ever cargoes of Middle East crude through a pricing platform in Singapore. "The big question is what China will do with all of these cargoes," notes one analyst, "It's very difficult for the market to know Chinaoil's strategy."

 

There are 89 tankers sailing for Chinese ports, 80 of which are VLCCs - the highest since January 3rd.

 

And now as Bloomberg reports, China National United Oil Co., a unit of the country’s biggest energy company, bought the most ever cargoes of Middle East crude through a pricing platform in Singapore amid oil’s slump into a bear market.

The company, known as Chinaoil, purchased about 21 million barrels this month through the system used to determine benchmark prices by Platts, a unit of McGraw Hill Financial Inc. It bought more than 40 cargoes of the Dubai, Oman and Upper Zakum grades in the so-called window, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. A Beijing-based press officer for CNPC, the parent company, wasn’t immediately able to comment and asked not to be identified because of internal policy.

 

“It’s very difficult for the market to know Chinaoil’s strategy,” Ehsan Ul-Haq, a senior market consultant at KBC Energy Economics in Walton-on-Thames, England, said by phone. “Prices have gone down and China is always interested in buying more crude whenever the price is right, but they could also have some other different trading strategy.”

 

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“The big question is what China will do with all of these cargoes,” JBC said in an e-mailed report Oct. 21. “If the Middle Kingdom puts the barrels into strategic storage, something that would be logical given low outright prices, they will disappear entirely from the market and China will still have to buy more crude for its day-to-day needs.”

 

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Chinaoil may be trying to narrow the spread between the prices of two different Middle East grades, according to Bernard Leung, an oil strategist for Bloomberg First Word in Singapore who traded crude for 15 years.

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