Dirtier and Heavier Oil Is Having Its Moment as Demand Shifts

image is BloomburgMedia_SCBMLAT0AFB400_22-04-2024_06-58-28_638493408000000000.jpg

BAGHDAD, IRAQ - OCTOBER 14: An Iraqi oil worker works at Al-Doura oil refinery October 14, 2002 in Baghdad, Iraq. U.S. President George W. Bush signed a congressional resolution authorizing use of force against Iraq, if needed, at the White House October 16, 2002 in Washington, DC. Iraq is suspected of making weapons of mass destruction. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)

Oil that’s more sulfurous and dense is gaining popularity in the Asian physical market in a rare shift away from the usual pattern as global crude flows change and rewards from refining move in its favor.

Middle Eastern varieties that have medium-density and higher sulfur such as Oman and Upper Zakum are now fetching bigger spot premiums than grades like Murban. That’s unusual as the latter is a lighter oil, typically regarded as better quality since it has a rich yield of refined fuels such as diesel.


The new pattern reflects underlying changes in supply and demand that span the global crude market. OPEC+ supply cuts have crimped flows of dirtier crudes, while at the same time, US producers have been boosting exports of lighter varieties. On the demand side, meanwhile, margins on high-sulfur fuel oil — made more from medium-sour grades — have risen just as profits in Asia from producing diesel fell, according to Bloomberg Fair Value data.

Other factors have also been at work, according to traders. While diesel has been showing signs of weakness globally, fuel oil — made from the heavier barrels — has seen a boost driven by seasonal demand, with the Middle East consuming more for power generation in the summer months, they said.

In addition, Abu Dhabi has been shipping more lighter oil, while curbing flows of its denser Upper Zakum variety to process that domestically. Elsewhere, Mexico’s halt to some exports has also reduced flows of sour heavy crude.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

By Sharon Cho


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the best of Energy Connects directly to your inbox each week.

By subscribing, you agree to the processing of your personal data by dmg events as described in the Privacy Policy.

Back To Top