BEIJING, March 13 Russian oil trader Litasco has
hired an ex-Glencore trader to head its Beijing-based China
operations, hoping to expand sales of Russian Urals crude to the
independent Chinese oil refineries known as "teapots", traders
Li Buhua, formerly head of Glencore's oil trading operation
in Beijing, joined the Russian trader in January, replacing Zhu
Tong who retired in late 2016, traders said.
Li was previously with state-owned Chinese oil and chemicals
trader Sinochem before joining Glencore.
Litasco is one of the world's largest traders and a unit of
Russia's No. 2 oil producer Lukoil.
Li confirmed his new posting and said his small team of
three - including himself - in Beijing was looking to target
Chinese teapot plants to boost sales of Urals crude, a grade
similar to Oman that is becoming more price competitive.
"We are starting from a small base, but hopefully we can
seize the arbitrage opportunity this year as the Middle Eastern
crudes become relatively more pricey due to the (OPEC) supply
cuts," said Li.
Set up in 2000 as the trading arm of Lukoil, Swiss-based
Litasco focuses on selling its parent's crude and products
worldwide, serving its refineries in Italy, the Netherlands,
Romania and Bulgaria and adding value through trading.
Lukoil said early this month it produced 92 million tonnes
of oil (1.84 million barrels per day) last year, including 83.2
million tonnes from Russia. It also operates fields in Iraq and
the former Soviet Union.
More than 20 independent refineries have since late 2015
emerged as a catalyst in the global crude oil market, making up
the bulk of the 910,000 barrels per day of additional crude oil
China bought in 2016 compared with its average daily purchases
in the previous year.
The teapots' buying frenzy elevated Russia to become China's
largest crude supplier last year for the first time on record.
The independents have since early this year started taking in
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Tom Hogue)