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After a two-year hiatus, US oil shipment heads to South Africa

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Kpler data show that Saudi Arabia, West and Central Africa, and South Africa are the primary sources of South Africa's oil

According to ship tracking information, a shipment of American oil is on its way to South Africa for the first time in two years. It is going to a Glencore-owned refinery in Cape Town that has resumed operations after an explosion shut it down in 2020.

In 2023, American oil exports reached a new high of 4.5 million barrels per day due to competitive pricing for US grades and China’s reopening following COVID-19, which increased oil demand globally.

According to data from Refinitiv Eikon and energy data provider Kpler, the tanker Sonangol Porto Amboim, carrying light sweet oil, departed Corpus Christi, Texas, on May 16 2023, for Saldanha Bay on the west coast of South Africa.

Kpler data show that Saudi Arabia, West and Central Africa, and South Africa are the primary sources of South Africa’s oil. However, since Russia invaded Ukraine, disruptions to oil flows and competitive pricing for U.S. crude have created new markets. According to U.S. customs data, South Africa received the last cargo of American oil in May 2021.

According to sources, Swiss commodities trader Glencore purchased the 850,000-barrel cargo of West Texas Light.

Nearly three years after a fatal explosion shut down operations and claimed the lives of two employees, Glencore’s majority-owned Astron Energy resumed production at its 100,000-barrel-per-day Cape Town refinery.

Regarding the shipment, Glencore declined to comment. However, Astron said the refinery restarted gradually and was operating at its intended capacity.

According to the refiner’s website, Astron, the second-largest retail petroleum network in southern Africa, obtains its oil from tankers discharging in Saldanha Bay and ships it by pipeline to the refinery in Cape Town.

The development comes after the recent incident where Iran seized an oil tanker named Advantage Sweet in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of the world’s crude oil passes.

The Turkish-operated, Chinese-owned tanker entered the Gulf of Oman after moving through the Strait of Hormuz and was reportedly bound for Houston, Texas carrying Kuwaiti crude oil for US energy firm Chevron Corp.

Tehran said the tanker collided with an unidentified Iranian vessel hours before its seizure, leading to several crew members falling overboard and going missing and others getting injured. The tanker then fled the scene and ignored radio calls for eight hours before its seizure based on a court order, the Iranian army said.

“We repeatedly called on the vessel to stop so we can conduct a more comprehensive investigation, but there was no cooperation,” Mostafa Tajodini, deputy for operations at the Iranian navy, told state media.

The Middle East-based US Navy Fifth Fleet called Iran’s actions a violation of international law, with Washington asking Tehran to immediately release the tanker.

“Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are a threat to maritime security and the global economy,” the US authorities said, adding this was at least the fifth commercial vessel taken by Iran in the past two years.

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