West African crude oil exports to China were set
to fall to a four-year low in October, reflecting the key buyer nation's cooled
interest in spot crude imports in the early autumn. 
The decline, shown in a Reuters survey of oil traders and shipping fixtures,
pushed overall exports to Asia to the lowest in more than a year, despite buying
from several Indian refineries including Reliance and state-run IOC, HPCL and
    Refinery runs in Asia are lower as a result of seasonal maintenance, which
capped their need for crude oil cargoes. Run cuts earlier this year in China on
the back of poor margins had also lowered the country's interest in spot
    China's November buying interest had already perked up, with trader Unipec
taking several November loading spot cargoes from Angola. But exports for
October, at around 24 cargoes or a total of 735,000 barrels per day (bpd), were
the lowest since 2011, according to Reuters data.
    But top OPEC exporter Saudi Arabia is expected to cut the prices of its
crude oil exports to Asia in November in a move to maintain its market share. A
cut could make it more difficult for African grades to compete. 
    Additionally, traders cautioned that some of the planned exports,
particularly those to India, could fall through as a result of complications
brought about by Nigeria's "letter of comfort" requirement, which was
implemented earlier this month and asks vessel owners to provide a guarantee
that vessels will not be used in theft. 
    Robust buying interest in Europe, where refinery margins remained well
supported, and the United States, helped absorb the surplus cargoes left from
Asia's lower purchases. 

 COUNTRY           OCTOBER    BPD       SEPTEMBER   BPD '000s
                   CARGOES    '000s     CARGOES     
 CHINA             24         735       28          887
 INDIA             18         552       15          475
 INDONESIA         4          123       5           158
 TAIWAN            3          92        2           63
 JAPAN             1          31        0           0
 S. KOREA          0          0         0           0
 OTHERS            3          92        3           95
 TOTAL             53         1,624     53          1,678