SINGAPORE, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Spot premiums for Russian ESPO
crude, a staple grade for top importer China, slumped by about
$2 a barrel after hitting their highest in nearly two years
earlier this week as Chinese independent refiners shunned the
pricey oil, trade sources said on Thursday.
The slump in ESPO premiums could have a ripple effect across
Asia's crude markets, especially for similar quality grades from
the Middle East such as light crude from Abu Dhabi and Russian
Russian producer Surgutneftegaz sold three January-loading
cargoes at premiums of between $4 and $4.30 a barrel to Dubai
quotes in its third tender this month, the sources said, the
lowest in two months.
Shell and Vitol likely bought the cargoes loading on Jan.
20-27, 24-30 and 27-31, they added.
"(Chinese buyers) just don't want end-month cargoes," a
Chinese trader said, adding that these cargoes will arrive close
to Chinese New Year and there is uncertainty over whether
independent refiners will be able to operate during the winter
Olympics in China in February.
Also, refining "margins in China are bad now", he said.
Beijing is expected to limit the operation of heavy industry
during the Olympics, but most independent refiners, also known
as teapots, are based in China's eastern Shandong province, well
to the south.
Earlier this week, ESPO crude was sold at premiums of
$6-$6.40 a barrel, the highest levels in 22 months.
(Reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Himani Sarkar and