Russian petcoke exports to China reached an all-year low in September.
Russia exported only 1,744 tons of petroleum coke (petcoke) to China by rail in September 2016, data compiled by DYM Resources shows. These were the lowest export rates since Russia loaded just 1,600 tons in January.
September exports were thirteen times lower than in July and twice lower than in August.
“China has lost volumes to more attractive destinations in September like the Baltic Sea ports, where about 18,500 tons of petcoke were loaded from three refineries: Antipinsky, Taneco and Perm,” Yury Burenko, senior petroleum coke trader at DYM Resources, commented.
Antipinsky and Perm refineries produce petcoke with a sulphur content below 3 percent, while Taneco loads petcoke with a sulphur content below 5 percent.
Demand for 3 percent petcoke in Western China may have dropped due to price cuts by major Xinjiang province petcoke producer Tahe during the summer months. Tahe refinery produces 4 percent sulphur at its 1 million-ton unit and cut prices to trim high stocks prior to expected environmental checks. China is limiting high-sulphur petcoke usage to improve the ecological situation in the country.
Russia exported 78,400 tons of petroleum coke to China between January and September this year by rail, DYM Resources data shows. Exports reached their peak in June and July, when about 20,000 tons per month were loaded (see chart).
Kazakhstan Loading to China Grows
Russia is competing with Kazakhstan for exports to the Western Chinese province of Xinjiang. Pavlodar refinery loaded 20,400 tons of petcoke to China in September, while Atyrau refinery exported 6,200 tons to this region. Kazakhstan petroleum coke exports to China rose in September by 28 percent compared to August and 40 percent compared to July this year.
In 2015, most Kazakhstan petcoke shipments were heading to Russia for aluminum production. Pavlodar produces petcoke with a 3 percent sulphur content while Atyrau produces petcoke with a sulphur content below 2 percent.
Pavlodar refinery is located 1,000 km from Dostyk station, where the main rail border crossing between Kazakhstan and China sits. Kazakhstan refineries are closer to Chinese aluminum plants than to ports on the Baltic or Black seas, which makes loading eastwards more attractive.
Russian Petcoke Exports Shift to Turkey
Russia started loading petroleum coke for export to the Black Sea market in October.
“High demand in Turkey, India and other developing countries are pushing prices for petcoke higher and the Chinese market will adjust to compete with other markets for Russian petcoke,” Burenko said.
Prices in the Black Sea markets are going up after increased prices for U.S. and Venezuelan petcoke cargoes during the fourth quarter of this year. Major buyers in the Black Sea market are Turkish cement producers; this industry consumes 4 million tons of high-sulphur petcoke per year.
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