Mercuria Energy Trading SA has shipped the first ever reported export of Bakken crude oil to Asia, according to a shipping document seen by Reuters on April 26, the latest shift in global oil flows as the U.S. seeks to draw down its bloated inventories.
The Swiss-based energy trader loaded more than 600,000 barrels of Bakken crude, as well as some Mars Sour crude, in late March off the coast of Louisiana onto the very large crude carrier (VLCC) Maran Canopus, destined for Singapore, according to the bill of lading and ship tracking data.
A company official could not immediately be reached for comment.
A year ago, Hess Corp. (NYSE: HES) sold Bakken crude for export out of the U.S. Gulf Coast to Europe, the first reported shipment of the light North Dakota oil since Congress lifted the ban on exporting crude in December 2015.
The cargo comes just weeks before the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline is slated to start bringing some 470,000 bbl/d of oil from North Dakota's Bakken shale to the Midwest and U.S. Gulf Coast.
"There seems to be increasing demand for light quality crude in Asia," said Michael Cohen, head of energy commodities research at Barclays. "I think with Dakota Access coming online, it makes the pipeline route from the Bakken to the Gulf Coast more economical."
Exports of Bakken crude may also help alleviate swelling inventories on the Gulf Coast, which are currently near record levels.
The deluge of light oil from the startup of the Dakota Access is anticipated to put downward pressure on Gulf Coast crude prices, said Sandy Fielden, director of oil and products research at Morningstar. The lower prices may make it more economical to export the crude.
Refiners from Japan said they have been testing the oil from the North Dakota shale and taken an interest in it due to the products it yields through refining.
"It suits the refinery more," said a Japanese refiner, who was not authorized to speak on the record.