Gasoline premiums in the Gulf firmed this week as Saudi Aramco continued its purchases and cracks rising in the Asian market supported the sentiment, traders said yesterday.
"The market's been improving for some time," one gasoline trader said. He pegged premiums for 95 RON gasoline at around $120 (Dh440) a tonne over benchmark Middle East naphtha quotes.
Another trader said they were around $115 a tonne, versus last week's range of $110-$115 a tonne.
Saudi Aramco has been among the major buyers in the gasoline market, as the state oil giant has ramped up purchases with the rising summer demand and as it aims to stock up ahead of Ramadan, which is due to start at the beginning of August.
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"They're buying regularly and they're buying everything; gasoline, gas oil," one trader said.
Traders said Aramco's purchases for June delivery amounted to 16 cargoes, and was expected to hit similar numbers for July delivery.
The partial shutdown of Saudi-based PetroRabigh's refinery maintenance has also increased Aramco's purchases, traders have said. Pakistan has been buying regularly due to its back to back refinery outages, traders said, helping lift the demand.
Pakistan was also selling naphtha, where sentiment remained sour since around mid-May due to ballooning supplies and weaker Taiwanese demand after Formosa shut a cracker indefinitely following a pipeline fire on May 12.
Attock Refinery Ltd and National Refinery Ltd have sold a total of 28,000 tonnes of July naphtha to Vitol through private negotiations, traders said on Wednesday.
Traders said Gunvor lifted some cargoes from a Tasweeq tender to sell 1.5 million barrels of gasoline between July to December, with prices ranging between 80 cents to $1 a discount to MOPS. But the prices and the buyer had not been independently confirmed.
Gasoline cracks recovered to a two-session high, with India's BPCL seeking at least another 30,000 tonnes for July delivery after having bought a total of 60,000 tonnes.
Low sulphur premiums looked sluggish with summer demand remaining below market expectations, traders said.
"There's regular demand from East Africa, but not much spot demand coming in," one distillates trader said, citing low sulphur gas oil premiums, also known as 500 ppm at $2.50 to $3 barrel, compared with $3 barrel. Another trader said fuel retailer Emarat was seeking 30,000 tonnes of gas oil in a tender for prompt delivery in early July.
It was not immediately confirmed.
Saudi Aramco has also been buying gas oil, another trader said, estimating that the state oil company was purchasing around 1-2 cargoes a week. Bunker premiums in Fujairah were under pressure, traders said.
Pakistan was expected to award its latest fuel oil import tender, and premiums were aggresive, traders said.