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Glut Forces Down Nigeria’s Crude Premiums

Nigeria’s crude oil grades in the export market face tough competition from the American shale industry, forcing NNPC to slash prices in order to attract buyers.

The shale boom that’s reduced U.S. dependence on overseas crude is impacting on Nigeria’s status as Africa’s biggest oil producer cuts the pricing for its flagship grade to the lowest in a decade. Nigeria, member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), is to sell July supplies of its Bonny Light crude at 23 cents more than Dated Brent, according to an e- mailed statement from Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The 23 cents premium would be the smallest differential since 2005 and compares with a 50 cent premium in June and $2.55 a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and available to The UNION.

Surging output from U.S. shale formations contributed to a market glut that drove crude almost 50 percent last year, roiling global markets as producer nations lost revenue and foreign-exchange reserves. While oil has pared losses this year, prices are still below what some producers including Nigeria and other OPEC members need to balance their budgets, data from the International Monetary Fund and ING Bank NV show. “Nigeria has no choice but to cut their price differential to fight for market share,” Hong Sung Ki, a commodities analyst at Samsung Futures Inc., said by phone from Seoul.

“The U.S. was its key oil buyer in the past but imports have been shrinking with more shale output in an already oversupplied market.” The slump in prices last year forced authorities in Nigeria, which relies on oil for about 70 percent of its income, to scale back budgeted spending and devalue the naira currency. Former finance minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said earlier in the month that her successor would face a “difficult” year because of plunging crude revenues.

Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that unlocked supplies in shale formations in North Dakota, Texas and other states has boosted U.S. output to the highest in more than three decades. That’s forced overseas producers, whose exports to the world’s biggest oil consumer are increasingly shrinking, to find new markets for their crude. The U.S. has bought an average 30,000 barrels a day of Nigerian crude this year, data from the Energy Department show. It shipped almost 1 million barrels a day from the nation in 2010, according to the data.

As sales to the U.S. slip, Nigeria is competing with OPEC members including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for customers in Asia, which the Paris-based International Energy Agency predicts will account for about a quarter of global oil demand this year. OPEC’s 12 nations pumped more than their self-imposed limit of 30 million barrels a day for the past 12 months, as they seek to defend market share. Saudi Arabia, the group’s biggest producer, has has 1.5 million to 2 million barrels a day of spare output capacity and is ready to increase production if demand rises, Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said Thursday.

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