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U.S. crude oil exports increased and reached more destinations in 2017

Global petcoke prices kept chugging higher this week despite a consensus among buyers the market is overpriced and a correction is due.

“I’d say some type of correction is coming unless coal prices rise again, but it’s hard to know how soon or how much,” said a US-based market participant. “[Prices] could trend down after March, but part of that will likely be impacted by good or bad news out of India.”

In India, delivered prices continue to rise.

A West India-based trader said a March-loading Supramax shipment of US petcoke was sold at $117/mt CFR East Coast India to an Indian end user.

The trader said supply remains tight, with hardly any spot shipments available.

“There isn’t much turnaround as a number of US refineries are [carrying out] maintenance,” he said.

The trader said he expects to see more firmness in prices given the current supply situation. This being an active buying season for India, he said he is receiving regular inquiries, but there is not much to offer.

Buyer expectations are far lower than the offers, he said, making it hard to conclude deals.

The trader said the Supreme Court’s hearing on petcoke usage restrictions in India is scheduled for the end of the month.

“The decision pending is whether there will be a ban or not. The market participants have shrugged off the policy problems and are now more focusing on to the pricing,” he added.

A number of attendees at an industry conference held March 10-11 in Phoenix, Arizona, said that whatever the final verdict in India, it is not expected to have a significant effect on petcoke consumption in the country, partly due to the sheer tonnage involved.

“It’s impossible to ban,” said a US-based trader.

The Indian trader said there is some interest for US coal as well, which is being offered at $108/mt on CFR basis, but a firmer freight market is making both US coal and petcoke uncompetitive.

“Petcoke prices are skyrocketing,” said another west India-based trader, noting US petcoke offers for an April-loading Supramax shipment were $119-$120/mt CFR west coast of India.

He said he received offer for Supramax shipments of Saudi Arabian petcoke at $113-$114/mt on a CFR basis. There is hardly any interest from the buyers at these levels, he added.

Given the recent correction in coal prices, buyers are expecting petcoke prices to follow suit, the trader said.

“They do not want to take any risk of buying at such high prices,” the trader said.

In Turkey, delivered coal prices (basis 6,000 kcal/kg NAR) have been largely rangebound over the last four weeks, dropping only $1/mt since mid-February, and priced this week at $93/mt, according to S&P Global Platts data.

Turkish price have largely followed their European-delivered counterparts, which have held relatively steady in the low $80s/mt since mid-February.

Turkish-delivered mid-sulfur petcoke prices have held at multi-year highs over the last several weeks on supply tightness, but are still cheaper than coal on an adjusted-calorific value basis. Adjusted to 6,000 kcal/kg, Turkish-delivered petcoke has been pricing at $88/mt.

Turkish cement producer Ackansa is likely to release a tender next week looking for roughly 20,000-45,000 mt of mid- and high sulfur petcoke, sources said. The possibility for petcoke-to-coal switching by cement producers in Turkey is growing as coal prices drop, a buyer said.

“We are awaiting the opportunity to buy some steam coal,” the source said. “This is not a sustainable level for petcoke.”

In the US, the market is awaiting a correction, which could come as soon as the end of the month, said one market participant.

“People are quite bullish on prices … but when will it come down is the big question,” said a second US-based trader. “We expected … prices to slow down by the second half of March, but it’s not happening.”

There were no deals heard out of the US Gulf or West coasts this week, but prices moved slightly higher after a survey of market participants.
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