(Adds details on buyer of spot crude shipments)
By David Alire Garcia
MEXICO CITY Jan 13 Mexico's Pemex has
begun selling heavy Maya crude for the first time since 2008 to
U.S. West Coast refiners, the head of the state oil company's
international trading arm said on Thursday.
Pemex, short for Petróleos Mexicanos, will also market more
light Isthmus crude this year to the U.S. West Coast, with most,
if not all of it, destined for California, Isaac Volin, chief
executive of PMI Comercio Internacional, said in an interview.
The company plans to ship an average of 30,000 barrels per
day (bpd) of Maya crude and 50,000 bpd of Isthmus crude over the
course of 2017, he said.
The company sold spot shipments late last year to a Royal
Dutch Shell refinery in California. But Volin said he
wants to eventually enter into longer-term contracts with West
Coast clients later in the year. He declined to name specific
Separately, Pemex's top oil trader said it was too soon to
speculate about any impact on energy trade flows between the
United States and Mexico if the next U.S. administration imposed
a new border tax.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is considering taxing
imports to protect American jobs and wages. While his specific
plans are unclear, his comments have worried refiners that
depend on crude imports between the two neighbors.
Pemex has for years sought to diversify its crude export
markets away from U.S. Gulf Coast refiners, shipping more oil to
Asian markets in recent years.
Volin said Pemex will export the crude from a recently
remodeled terminal adjacent to its Salina Cruz refinery on the
Pacific coast, lessening dependence on its export hubs clustered
in the Gulf of Mexico, especially when they are hit by bad
While crude export revenue once contributed as much as 40
percent of government revenue, that figure has dropped by less
than half as oil prices have slumped over the
past couple years.
"One thing we noted during 2016 is that it has become more
attractive to export our crude to the West Coast of the United
States than send it to other markets, like Europe," said Volin,
a former head of BlackRock Mexico.
Pemex's European markets are saturated with crudes from the
Middle East and the price it is paid in the West Coast, after
discounting freight costs, is higher, he added.
The new West Coast shipments began in late November with
23,000 barrels of crude, Volin said, noting that the buyer of a
subsequent December spot shipment paid $1.45 more per barrel
than European buyers would have.
Pemex sold both spot shipments to Royal Dutch Shell's
Martinez refinery near San Francisco, California, according to
data from Thomson Reuters Eikon.
Due to Pemex sending more crude to its domestic refineries
for processing, total crude exports in 2017 are likely to
average between 1 million and 1.1 million bpd, Volin said, down
from just over 1.2 million bpd last year.
Mexico's imports of refined products from U.S. suppliers hit
a record in 2016 as Mexico's six domestic refineries processed
much less crude, which has prompted some analysts to forecast
more growth in gasoline and diesel purchases in 2017.
Volin, however, said Pemex expected to import less fuel this
year than in 2016.
Gasoline imports are expected to dip to around 400,000 bpd,
down some 17 percent, while diesel imports will fall to about
130,000 bpd, down nearly 30 percent from 2016, according to
The executive said the drop in fuel imports will begin after
Mexico is undergoing a gradual gasoline price
liberalization, part of a landmark 2014 energy overhaul, which
caused fuel prices to spike by double-digits on Jan. 1.
The price spike, known locally as a "gasolinazo," has led to
angry protests across the country over the past couple weeks,
including highway blockades and looting of gas stations.
This year Pemex could also begin its first-ever imports of
U.S. light crude, which was authorized by the U.S. government
for up to 75,000 bpd in 2015, he added.
It was not clear how much light U.S. crude might be
imported, and Pemex's Industrial Transformation unit, which runs
its refineries, has yet to submit a formal request, Volin said.
(Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and