(Adds detail on management changes, upstream and asphalt)
By Julia Payne
March 24 (Reuters) - Vitol’s annual traded volumes rose 16 percent in 2016 to a new record as the world’s largest independent energy trader sold more gasoline and diesel in markets such as the United States and Australia.
The Swiss-based company said on Friday its crude oil and product trading rose to 2,597 million barrels last year, or more than 7 million barrels a day.
Crude represented 48 percent of its traded portfolio and volumes also rose 16 percent. The biggest jump in percentage terms came from gasoline, up 44 percent and gasoil, up 26 percent, driven by increasing demand in the United States, Australia and Vitol’s growing presence in key African markets.
Vitol’s turnover, however, fell to $152 billion in 2016 from $168 billion in 2015 as a result of lower energy prices.
“(Global) demand growth of 1.4 million barrels a day exceeded our expectations slightly, but the continued efficiency gains within the exploration and extraction sector ensured the market was well supplied and the impact on price constrained,” Vitol said.
The firm also said oil prices in 2016 were no longer in the steep contango market structure that boosted results in 2015. Contango is a market structure in which the price for delivery of a product in the future is higher than the immediate price.
Vitol also said growth in the supply of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from U.S. shale was creating new opportunities.
“Our 2016 volumes increased by 131 percent and, longer term, we anticipate that the ample supply of LPG will facilitate the switch away from solid fuels for cooking in economies across Africa and Asia,” it said.
“In addition, we are working with power plants and light industry in Africa to help them move from burning fuel oil and diesel to LPG, a cleaner and more efficient source of fuel.”
Vitol said its coal trading increased to levels last seen in 2014, reflecting a growing pull from Asia as new coal-fired power stations became operational, with an estimated increase in coal generation capacity in 2016 of more than 50 gigawatts.
The trader has also appointed Russell Hardy, a member of the executive committee, to the newly created role of CEO for Europe, Middle East and Africa as the company’s growing size demand more focussed management.
For its Geneva presence, David Fransen shifted from managing director to chairman while Gerard Delsad, the company’s chief information officer, is now also the new management head.
During 2016, Vitol consolidated and expanded its presence in the retail sector by increasing its stakes in existing ventures while also adding Royal Dutch Shell’s aviation business in Australia.
Through a joint venture with U.S. firm Sargeant Marine called VALT, Vitol increased its presence in asphalt. The venture trades 1.3 million tonnes a year and has one of the largest asphalt shipping fleets.
In production, Vitol said its focus remained its stake in the Sankofa Gye Nyame field off Ghana operated by Eni. It expects its first oil to be produced in the summer of 2017 and gas in the first half of 2018. (Additional reporting by Rahul B in Bengaluru and Dmitry Zhdannikov in London; editing by Susan Thomas and David Clarke)