Cyclone Rusty to hit Western Australian iron ore belt
Load operations at the major iron ore ports in NW Australia are being impacted by the approach of another strengthening tropical cyclone, Reuters reports. Port Hedland has been closed and all vessels sent out to sea ahead of tropical cyclone Rusty which is due to sweep across the coast by Wednesday. Dampier is expected to be fully closed by the end of Monday (25 February). According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the storm is currently category 2 in strength but could rise to a category 4 by the time it reaches Port Hedland.
January Chinese iron ore imports by source
A breakdown of China’s iron ore imports in January by source shows that shipments from India were just 0.6 Mt in January, compared with 4.5 Mt in the same month in 2012, which demonstrates the impact of the mining ban in Goa introduced last year. A seasonal dip in imports from Brazil was in evidence in January as the 12.9 Mt of imports were down 35% month-on-month, although imports of Australian iron ore remained high at 32.4 Mt (down 4% on December). Meanwhile, chartering activity from NW Australian iron ore ports has been interrupted due to the approach of another strengthening tropical cyclone.
South Korean Crude Imports up 2.8% yoy in January
According to the latest data from the Korea National Oil Corp. (KNOC), South Korean crude imports averaged 2.34 mb/d in January, up by 64 kb/d from December and by 73 kb/d yoy. Crude runs at the country’s refineries averaged 2.71 mb/d, up by 57 kb/d mom and by 81 kb/d yoy. South Korean oil demand averaged 2.31 mb/d, down by 47 kb/d mom and 48 kb/d yoy. Product imports were 58 kb/d lower yoy at 887 kb/d, but up by 80 kb/d yoy. Product exports averaged 1.24 mb/d, up by 12 kb/d mom and by 190 kb/d yoy.
IGC grain forecast
The International Grains Council IGC anticipates that corn shipments from Brazil will surpass exports from the US, forecasting exports of 26.0 Mt in 2012/13 compared with 8.5 Mt in 2011/12, and 2.5 Mt more than the US projection.
Total grain exports from Australia in 2012 rose for a fifth consecutive year to a new annual record 30.2 Mt. Most of the increases have seen in the wheat exports, up 3.8 Mt or 19% year-on-year to an all-time high of 23.6 Mt. Meanwhile, coarse grain exports rose to an 8-year high of 6.6 Mt.
First Phase of Permian Express Pipeline Set to Begin Operations in 2q13
The first phase of Sunoco’s West Texas – Nederland Permian Express pipeline, designed to carry oil from the Permian Basin to US Gulf refineries, is scheduled to begin operations in 2q13, Reuters reports. The project had initially been expected to come online in the first quarter. The line will begin by shipping 90 kb/d, with Sunoco still expecting to increase flows along the line to reach 150 kb/d by late 2013 or early 2014. There are plans for a second phase of the project, which would see an extra 200 kb/d carried along the line.
Japanese raw material imports
According to preliminary trade data from the Ministry of Japan, the country imported 11.7 Mt of iron ore in January, up 2.3 Mt on December and 1.3 Mt from the year-ago level. This was also the highest January monthly level since 2008. After falling for three months, coal imports rose 0.8 Mt to 15.3 Mt, but were still down 1.5 Mt on January 2012.
China’s daily crude steel production
China's crude steel production rose to its highest daily rate since October at 1.989 Mt in the first 10 days of February, according to data from the China Iron & Steel Association member companies. Production is 15% higher than during the corresponding period last year.
Market anticipates rise in Saudi crude output in Q2
Reuters is reporting oil market expectations that Saudi Arabia is poised to increase its crude output in the second quarter. An anticipation of higher Chinese demand following the Lunar New Year and the return of refineries from maintenance is cited as the reason behind the potential increase in output. The possibility of lower Iranian crude exports as new US and EU sanctions take effect may also be a contributory factor behind any future increase in Saudi production.
World Steel Production
Global steel production in January registered both monthly (+3.0%) and annual (+0.8%) increases to total 124.8 Mt, according to the World Steel Association. This represented the highest monthly amount produced since October 2012. Virtually all of the year-on-year growth was accounted for by China, which produced 2.6 Mt more than in January 2012 at 59.3. Production in Japan was also higher in both December and January 2012 at 8.7 Mt. Although output in the EU-27 posted a monthly rise of 1.6 Mt, production in January 2013 was still 0.7 Mt lower than the year-ago level at 13.5 Mt. The US produced 0.4 Mt less steel year-on-year at 7.3 Mt.
Seaway Pipeline flows to remain below capacity for ‘the foreseeable future’
A filing to US federal regulators from an expert witness suggests that crude flows along the newly expanded 400 kb/d Seaway Pipeline will average 295 kb/d between February and March, Reuters reports. Due to complications in handling both light and heavy crudes, flows through the line will not exceed 335 kb/d for ‘the foreseeable future’, according to the filing. Seaway was expanded from 150 kb/d at the start of the year.
Russia’s crude steel production
Russia’s crude steel production fell 5.8% year-on-year in January to 5.7 Mt, according to the State Statistics Committee of Russia. Production also fell 2.4% month-on-month.
Coal stocks at Indian power stations at 9-month high
Coal stocks at Indian thermal power stations totalled 13.9 Mt on February 14, marking the highest level since May 2012, according to data from the country’s Central Electricity Authority. However, stockpile at 34 plants have been categorized as ‘critical’, meaning sufficient suppliers for less than one week, while 18 have fewer than four days’ worth of supplies.
German crude steel production
According to the German Steel Federation, Germany’s crude steel production enjoyed a reasonably strong start to 2013, rising 18% to 3.6 Mt in January from the previous month. Production in January also grew 7% year on year.
Skikda refinery to resume full operations in first week of March
Sonatrach’s 353 kb/d Skikda refinery in Algeria will return to full operations in the first week of March, Bloomberg reports. The facility has been partially closed since July 2012, and a restart was delayed by a 14 February fire. The plant exports at least 50 kb/d of naphtha, according to Argus. The resumption of full operations at Skikda coincides with significant refinery maintenance in the Middle East and India, themselves important regions for naphtha exports.
South Korean steel trade
December saw a rebound in steel exports from South Korea, rising by 5% month-on-month to a 7-month high of 2.6 Mt, according to data from the country’s Iron & Steel Association. Total steel exports by South Korea in 2012 reached 30.5 Mt, up 5% on the 2011.
Turkish coal imports
Turkish coal imports remained at a high level in December, edging lower from November’s record to 3.2 Mt, according to data from the country’s statistical institute quoted by McCloskey. Total coal imports in the whole 2012 reached a record 29.2 Mt, up by 5.5 Mt or 23% on 2011. This comprised 24.6 Mt of steam coal and 4.6 Mt of coking coal. Turkey imported 9.8 Mt of Russian coal last year, up 13.5% year-on-year. Imports from Colombia saw a 35% increase to 7.3 Mt, while imports from South Africa rose by 16% to 3.3 Mt.
North Sea crude production set to fall in March
North Sea crude output is scheduled to average 1.83 mb/d in March, based on loading schedules cited by Reuters. This would represent at least a 10% fall from February. Maintenance at the 200 kb/d Buzzard field, the main contributor to the Forties stream, is the main reason for the decline. Work on the field is expected to take place over four days in early March.
US steel exports
According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, US steel exports set a record in 2012 rising 2.2% to 13.7 Mt. However, December saw exports fall 19.3% to 0.9 Mt from 1.1 Mt in the corresponding period last year.
Repairs to SBM set to reduce crude runs at Shell’s Bukom refinery in Singapore
Shell is due to carry out repairs on the VLCC single-buoy mooring (SBM) at its 500 kb/d Bukom refinery in Singapore between mid-February and late March, Reuters reports. The plant will run at reduced rates during the work. This, and simultaneous work at Reliance’s 580 kb/d Jamnagar refinery in WC India, is expected to tighten distillate supply in Asia in the coming weeks.
World steel price rises further
According to the latest SteelBenchmarker published by World Steel Dynamics, the world export price of hot rolled band was up by $14/t from end-January to $592/t. Although this is the highest level since mid-July 2012, it was down $50/t year-on-year.
Chinese HRB steel prices rose for a third consecutive month to $557/t, the highest level since mid-May 2012, while HRB prices in the US edged $8/t higher from two weeks ago to a 2-month high of $696/t. However, HRB prices in the EU edged $2/t lower to $659/t, over the last two weeks.
Australian maintenance to reduce crude output
The heavy sweet 17 kb/d Van Gogh oil field offshore West Australia is due to shut in April for up to six months maintenance, reports Argus. This will overlap with the closure of Woodside’s nearby Vincent floating production, storage and offloading platform which has been shut since the start of the year and not likely to restart until end-May. Combined, this could mean a loss of over 50 kb/d of crude output for two months and boost demand in Asia-Pacific for other Australian grades and cargoes from Vietnam and Angola. However, upcoming refinery maintenance in Asia could limit the impact as refiners cut their crude intake.
USDA grain forecasts
The US Department of Agriculture has lowered its forecast for US corn exports in 2012/13 (Oct-Sep) by 2.0 Mt from January’s projection to 24.0 Mt. If it is realised, this would be the lowest level in over 40 years. These downward revisions have been fully offset by increased forecasts for Brazilian corn (+2.0 Mt to 24.5 Mt), nearly double the previous year. The changes in trade pattern would result in Brazil ousting the US from its historical position as the world’s top corn exporter.
The USDA also expects sizeable increases in soya exports from Latin America in 2012/13. Combined exports of both soyabean and soya meal from Brazil are forecast to climb to 53.1 Mt (+2.1 Mt on this year’s estimate), while Argentina’s soya exports are projected to rise to 38.9 Mt (+5.5 Mt).
China’s steel price
On the eve of the Lunar New Year holidays, the price of Chinese wire rod remained unchanged from the previous week at $582/t, according to World Steel Dynamics. This is some $72/t below the level seen in the corresponding period last year.
China's coal imports
China imported 30.55 Mt of coal in January, representing a gain of 56.3% from the same month last year, according to preliminary customs statistics. If confirmed, January imports would be the second highest monthly level on record.
Chinese crude imports continue strong growth in January
Chinese crude imports averaged 5.95 mb/d in January, up by 350 kb/d from December and by 411 kb/d yoy, according to the latest data from Chinese Customs. January’s imports were the third-highest on record and the highest since May 2012 when an all-time high of 6.03 mb/d was imported.