Saudi Arabia could be looking to slash crude oil shipments to the United States from next month to effect a tightening of the world’s most transparent oil market.
As the Kingdom prepares to cut unilaterally 1 million barrels per day (bpd) from its crude oil production in July, its crude shipments to the west could be much more affected than exports to its primary market, Asia, which lacks transparent oil inventory reporting like the U.S. does, Bloomberg Opinion columnist Javier Blas argues.
On several occasions in recent years, Saudi Arabia has significantly lowered crude shipments to the United States in attempts to tighten the U.S. market, which reports oil and products data on a weekly basis, unlike China and India, which rarely – if at all – report commercial or strategic oil stockpiles.
Early this month, the OPEC+ producers decided to keep the current cuts until the end of 2024, but OPEC’s top producer, Saudi Arabia, said it would voluntarily reduce its production by 1 million bpd in July, to around 9 million bpd. The cut could be extended beyond July, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said.
The production level in July would be Saudi Arabia’s lowest since 2011, excluding the initial cuts after the Covid outbreak in 2020 and the lowered production after the attack on Aramco’s facilities in September 2019.
Even after the production cut Saudi Arabia announced for July 2023, Aramco, the world’s largest crude oil exporter, reportedly assured at least five North Asian refiners they would get the full crude volumes they had asked for in July.
Prioritizing supply to its prized Asian markets, Aramco could lower shipments to the U.S., to force a tightening of the market that would be evident in inventory reports. Moreover, Aramco controls the largest refinery by capacity in the U.S., Motiva, and could influence supply to the 630,000-bpd facility in Port Arthur, too, Bloomberg’s Blas notes.