West African oil differentials were unchanged on Friday, with traders on the sidelines as they assessed the impact of lower North Sea supply and awaited a clearer outlook for Libyan exports.
The supply of North Sea crude that underpins the Brent benchmark will average 774,000 barrels per day (bpd) in May, according to loading schedules provided by trade sources on Friday, down from April.
This was seen putting upward pressure on Nigerian differentials because oil from the two regions competes for customers.
"We're waiting to see what the offers on the North Sea are like," a trader said.
Crude oil futures prices fell earlier this week on hopes that Libyan supply would return. This would pressure West African grades because they are of a similar light, low-sulphur composition.
Libya has seen evidence of "good intentions" at indirect talks with eastern rebels which could lead to the lifting of their blockage of major oil ports within days, a government minister said on Thursday.
But in an example of the chaos and shifting alliances typical of the OPEC producer, divisions in the rebel camp became apparent on Thursday when a senior member told Reuters he and seven others had quit the rebels' leadership team in a conflict with top leader Ibrahim Jathran.
Supporting differentials, Nigerian crude supply was the lowest in at least five years, Reuters data showed, due to an outage of the Forcados grade as a pipeline leak prompted a force majeure. Shell said on Friday the force majeure remained in place.
- Qua Iboe: Assessed unchanged at around dated Brent plus $2.70-$2.90 a barrel. Traders said at least five cargoes of the grade were available, with only one or two spot trades done.
- Forcados: Shell said the force majeure on exports was still in place. A tanker that has been waiting to load for the past three weeks moved into the terminal on Wednesday, although it was unclear whether loading had begun.
- Erha: None of four cargoes has been sold, a trader said.
- Agbami, Usan and EA grades had sold out, the trader said.
- Grades still available include Cabinda and Girassol.
- Differentials for most grades were said to be in line with the previous month, but Pazflor was around 50 cents above dated Brent higher.
- An MRPL tender is due next week with part one on Monday, part two on Wednesday and the award on Thursday, a trader said.
- Pertamina was heard to have taken a Cabinda cargo, a trader said.
(Reporting by Simon Falush; Editing by Dale Hudson)