Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Local youths walk on Shell Oil pipeline in Utorogun, Nigeria, in a file photo. Refiners in China, India, Indonesia and other Asian countries are buying record amounts of crude oil from West African nations.

GEORGE OSODI/The Associated Press

Asia is set to import record volumes of West African crude oil this year as Chinese buyers come into the market to fill inventories.

Imports of West African crude oil by Asian refiners and end-users have dipped to 1.49 million barrels per day (bpd) this month, down more than 10 per cent from October, but their purchases for December have recovered sharply to around 1.75 million bpd, according to data compiled by Reuters.

A Reuters survey of trade and shipping sources shows refiners in China, India, Indonesia and other Asian countries have bought more than 660 West African crude oil cargoes this year, carrying a record 1.72 million bpd.

Story continues below advertisement

This year's total is up from just under 600 cargoes in 2011 and compares with 656 cargoes in 2010, the previous record year.

"Chinese traders have been hoovering up cheap West African cargoes on something of a buying spree," said a strategist with a large U.S. oil refiner. "Demand from the Gulf of Mexico, South America and Europe has been low, so the Chinese have been in the market, mopping up."

Strong economic growth in China and other emerging economies has driven a rapid increase in demand for crude oil in Asia.

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.

But 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 driven down the market for high-quality oil.

U.S. refiners, who traditionally queued up to buy West African crude, now use far more domestic feedstock, leaving Asian end-users as the dominant buyers.

Hurricane Sandy, which closed many U.S. refiners along the U.S. Atlantic coast at the end of last month, exacerbated this trend, leaving many West African cargoes loading in November and December unsold for long periods.

Story continues below advertisement

"It's been a buyers market – and the buyers are mostly Asian," said a crude oil trader with a European refiner.

Report an error
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies