By Koustav Samanta
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - More Asian gasoil is expected to head to Europe as buyers take advantage of the biggest seasonal price gap between the two regions in at least seven years to build up stocks ahead of a switch to cleaner marine fuels, traders and ship brokers said.
Asian supplies are also expected to swell further in coming months as new refining capacities and the completion of refinery maintenance season add more barrels, especially from China and India, they said.
"The East-West gasoil arbitrage window is opening up, and the numbers look workable now," a Singapore-based trader said, declining to be identified as she was not authorized to speak with media.
"I'm yet to hear of the vessels being fixed, but we should hear soon if this trend continues," she added.
Global demand for gasoil is expected to rise due to new regulations from the International Maritime Organization that will force shippers to reduce the sulphur content in fuels burned in ships to combat pollution. One way to do so is to switch to low-sulphur gasoil.
Northwest European prices for gasoil are near three-month highs of about $15-per-tonne premium over Singapore values for September fuel deliveries, while October premiums are near $18 a tonne.
The price spread, also known as exchange of futures for swaps (EFS), is currently at its widest levels for this time of the year in at least seven years, Refinitiv data showed.
The arbitrage window was last open in May, a trader said, adding that the arbitrage to Europe from Asia is usually workable when the price spread is at least around $15 a tonne.
The price difference has been helped by lower inventories in northwestern Europe, two ship-brokers said.
Gasoil stocks held in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp refining and storage hub were at 2.8 million tonnes last week, the lowest volumes since early-June, while Singapore middle distillate stocks were at a two-month high of 11.3 million barrels.
Meanwhile, European refinery maintenance is expected to reach around 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in September, and traders said around 2 million tonnes of gasoil from Asia is expected to reach Europe per month through August-October.
"East of Suez suppliers now supply a third of European diesel imports, up from 15% in 2014," consultancy Energy Aspects said in a August note.
Ship tracking data in Refinitiv Eikon shows one tanker, the Cobalt Sun, is provisionally chartered to carry gasoil from Asia to discharge in Europe in September.
(Additional reporting by Ron Bousso in LONDON; editing by Florence Tan and Richard Pullin)