November 19, 2020 | oil and gas

Iraq outlines new specs of crude export grades


London — Iraq's state oil marketer has tweaked the crude assays of its key export grades for next year, which include a new medium sour crude known as Basrah Medium, according to documents seen by S&P Global Platts.

The State Oil Marketing Organization sent a note to customers on Nov. 17 with 'test reports' of Basrah Light, Basrah Medium and Basrah Heavy. A senior official representative at SOMO confirmed the new crude specifications with Platts.

The new grade, Basrah Medium, will have a specific gravity of around 27.9 API with a sulfur content of 3.00%. This makes it very akin in quality to Saudi Arabia's Arab Medium, which is of 27.8 API and 2.75% sulfur.

Crudes such as Iranian Heavy, Brazil's Mero, Russia's Urals and Oman crude export blend are similar. SOMO had previously said Basrah Medium grades would have an API gravity of 29-30 degrees and 2% sulfur.

Changes were also made to its two existing grades.

Iraq's flagship crude Basrah Light will now have an API of 31.40 and sulfur content of 2.74%. Basrah Heavy, which is a heavy sour crude, has a new API of 24 and 4.05% sulfur.

Basrah Light and Basrah Heavy were initially marketed by SOMO with API of 34 degrees and 26 degrees, respectively, but these grades have been much heavier in recent years as new oil fields came on stream, changing their quality.

Quality stability

On Nov. 2, SOMO notified its customers that it intends to export Basrah Light, Basrah Heavy and Basrah Medium crudes from Jan. 1 2021, with slight changes in specific gravity to the already existing grades.

In early November, a senior SOMO official told Platts that the changes were made 'to support the stability of the quality of each grade and shrink the range of variation in the API for each grade.'

OPEC's second-largest oil producer Iraq has been planning these changes for a number of years to satisfy customer needs and present a greater variety to the market.

The traditional Basrah crude used to be mainly from the Rumaila and Zubair fields, which produce a lighter oil, but the recent crudes include more medium and heavy oil from West Qurna 1, Ahdab and Halfaya fields.

All of Iraqi crude is sour and high in sulfur, but in terms of specific gravity, they range between medium and heavy. Heavy crudes normally have a specific gravity lower than 25 API, while medium grades tend to be between 25-34 API.

So far this year, Basrah Light and Basrah Heavy exports have averaged around 2.20 million b/d and 800,000 b/d, respectively, according to estimates by Platts.

Iraq markets most of its crude to Asian refiners, where it has placed increasing volumes of its key Basrah Light and Basrah Heavy grades in recent months.

The country has split its Basrah crude grades before, launching exports of Basrah Heavy in June 2015 to improve the quality and stability of its more lucrative Basrah Light grade.

Normally, almost 70% of Iraqi crude heads to Asia, while the rest goes mainly to Europe and the US.

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