ARA independent product stocks fall to 8-week lows

London, 21 February (Argus) — Oil product stocks held in independent storage tanks in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA) trading hub fell to eight-week lows today.

Fuel oil stocks recorded the largest fall in percentage terms as economics to ship European product to the Asia-Pacific region remained viable, according to data from consultancy PJK. The very large crude carrier (VLCC) Xin Lian Yang — chartered by Petroineos — departed Rotterdam on 17 February with 270,000t of fuel oil for Singapore. Trafigura booked the VL Prime that will soon load 270,000t of cracked fuel oil from Rotterdam, with the same destination. ARA fuel oil exports offset import levels from France, Poland, Russia and the UK.

Independent gasoline stocks fell to their lowest since 20 December. Cargoes took some gasoline from the ARA region to the US despite unworkable arbitrage economics. The decline came mostly from exports to Latin America, the Mediterranean, west Africa, east of Suez and Suez for orders.

Product restocking in Germany and Switzerland, declining Rhine water levels and a ban on single-hull barges has limited vessel availability across refined product markets. Consequently, market participants are loading gasoline in Antwerp on cargoes to discharge in the Amsterdam area, where most of the blending activity for the European market takes place.

In the gasoil and naphtha markets, firms are looking to transport product inland before declining Rhine water levels further restrict barge loading.

Inland demand for gasoil was at its highest in over one year, PJK said. This offset high import levels from Russia, the UK and the US. But gasoil inventories remain higher than a year earlier, and at their highest since early November on a four-week rolling average basis.

Trading firms are refilling stocks that Germany’s EBV strategic reserve released when Rhine water levels were low in October. But activity could slow as last week EBV’s diesel stocks were already replenished.

Restocking activity on the jet fuel market has already decreased, with just one barge booked to take product inland this week.

A single cargo arrived into Rotterdam on 18 February with 65,000t of jet fuel from Qatar on the Cielo Di Rotterdam. A smaller vessel arrived into the ARA trading hub from Finland. And a tanker exported product to the UK, where there is firm buying interest to blend jet fuel with diesel to improve cold properties.

Demand to move naphtha inland from the ARA region was strong for stocking ahead of planned petrochemical maintenance from mid-April. Naphtha arrived into the trading-hub from Algeria and from within Europe, while no outgoing cargoes were reported.

Reporter: Rowena Caine