Saudi keeps May oil supply steady to Asia, Europe

SINGAPORE Mon Apr 11, 2011 10:45pm IST

A man rides his trishaw loaded with empty plastic barrels which are used to carry oil in Ahmedabad March 10, 2011. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

A man rides his trishaw loaded with empty plastic barrels which are used to carry oil in Ahmedabad March 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Amit Dave/Files

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Top OPEC exporter Saudi Arabia will hold supplies steady to long-term customers in Asia and Europe in May but is not trying to force extra supplies on to buyers to drive prices down, traders said.

Asian refineries will receive full contracted volumes, steady with April, sources at four northeast Asian refineries said on Monday.

One of the refineries will receive more Arab Light crude and less Arab Heavy, a source there said.

Two trade sources in Europe also said European customers would receive steady volumes in May.

"(It's) in line with last month. There has been no change," one source said.

So far Saudi supplies, roughly a million barrels per day (bpd) above its OPEC output limit, have done little to calm the oil market.

On Monday, Brent rose above $127 a barrel, its highest in more than two and a half years.

The top oil producer has repeatedly said the market has plenty of supply.

In March, Saudi sources said it had increased output to around 9 million bpd in response to supply disruptions in fellow OPEC member Libya.

Over the weekend, a senior Gulf source told Reuters Saudi Arabia would have no difficulty producing to its full capacity of 12.5 million bpd.

There is no sign, however, that it is willing to do so until it believes there is sufficient demand.

NEW SPOT SALES

Last month, it began marketing a new crude, designed to make up for missing light, sweet Libyan crude, which is typically easier to refine than most Saudi barrels.

So far, it has sold 2 million barrels on the spot market of the blend of Arab Super Light and Arab Extra Light.

More of the new crude would be available this month and next month, a source said on Monday, depending on demand and the price of it could rise.

Other additional Saudi supplies have gone into storage and have not necessarily translated into higher exports.

Saudi Arabia's biggest customer base is in Asia, where demand for products and crude has been distorted by a series of earthquakes and a tsunami in Japan a month ago, which triggered a nuclear disaster.

Japanese refineries were shut, stoking demand from elsewhere in Asia for extra diesel, and the closure of nuclear power has boosted requirements for sweet crude, which can be directly burned for power.

The Asian sources said Saudi Arabia made no changes to operational tolerance in the May supply allocations, meaning buyers can ask for cargoes to be loaded with up to 10 percent more or less crude than contracted.

(Additional reporting by Zaida Espana and Ikuko Kurahone in London; editing by Jason Neely)

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