India to import record 9.94 million barrels of crude oil from US this month

U.S. crude oil producers appear to have found an alternative buyer for their crude which will be no longer heading to China, with India on track to import record volumes in August.

India has booked a total of 9.94 million barrels of crude, about 319,000 barrels per day (bpd), to arrive from the United States this August, according to vessel-tracking and port data compiled by Thomson Reuters Oil Research and Forecasts.

This would be almost triple the 119,000 bpd India imported from the United States in July, and well above the 190,000 bpd for November last year, the previous record for a month. The August total is also likely to be just above the 9.65 million barrels imported over the first seven months, showing the scale of acceleration in India’s imports of U.S. Crude.

Indian refiners’ interest in U.S. crude will be welcome news to shale producers looking for buyers outside of China.

Although not imposed as yet, China has proposed import taxes of up to 25 per cent on US crude, as well as on liquefied natural gas and coal. While US crude exports to China appear to have held up in August, with about 3,42,000 bpd expected to arrive, they seem set for a slump in September.

For US crude exporters, India is a market ripe for expansion, given the voyage from the Gulf of Mexico to India’s west coast takes about three weeks, much the same as it does to China’s east coast. This means shipping costs are more or less in line with sending cargoes to China.

Indian refiners may also be seeking alternative suppliers as they may be compelled to cut purchases from Iran. Iranian oil exports are under a cloud because of renewed sanctions as part of the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the international agreement aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear programme.

It will be particularly galling for Tehran to lose market share in India to the United States. However, there is no sign yet that India is cutting back on imports from Iran, with a record 7,68,000 bpd arriving in July, according to preliminary tanker data.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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