Riyadh December 2 2022: Saudi Arabia’s crude exports declined in November, as shipments to the US plunged to a multiyear low and flows to China slumped.
Total observed shipments dropped to about 7.1 million barrels a day, the lowest since June, tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show. That compares with a revised 7.5 million barrels a day in October.
Exports to the US fell to 83,000 daily barrels -- the lowest since Bloomberg began tracking the data in early 2017 -- from 387,000 in October. The November figure could rise, as ships hauling about 18 million barrels of Saudi crude that loaded last month still haven’t signaled their final destinations.
Saudi officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The kingdom, the biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has slashed exports as it implements an OPEC+ deal to balance global crude markets. The alliance, which includes Russia and a handful of other non-OPEC members, meets virtually on Dec. 4 to determine next steps. It is increasingly expected to hold output steady.
OPEC+ previously agreed to curb production last month -- resulting in a sharp rebuke from US President Joe Biden, who for months has been pushing for lower oil prices as countries across the globe deal with historic inflation. Saudi Arabia has said its relationship with the US is strong, despite the disagreement over oil production.
It’s rare -- though not unheard of -- for Saudi oil flows to the US to slow to a trickle. In October 2020, shipments on the route dropped to 97,000 barrels a day, tanker-tracking data show. In early January 2021, the US Energy Information Administration reported that weekly imports of Saudi crude had fallen to zero -- the first such occurrence in 35 years.
Still, the observed flows in November are exceptionally small -- especially considering that shipments from the kingdom to the US in September reached 667,000 barrels a day, the highest in more than two years. Saudi Arabia also raised its crude prices for the US for November.
Saudi crude exports to China fell to about 1.6 million barrels a day last month, from 1.9 million in October, which was the highest since May 2020. Demand from China has been muted due to the nation’s Covid Zero policy, contributing to an overall drop in oil prices in November.
There are signs Beijing may be amending its strategy following protests against the strict curbs, helping prices to rebound somewhat in recent days.