The world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, continues to try to tighten the world’s most transparently reported oil market by slashing crude oil shipments to the United States to the lowest levels in decades.

OPEC’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia is estimated to have sent to America just 177,000 barrels per day (bpd) in August, according to tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

To compare, the Saudis shipped as much as 1.3 million bpd to the United States in April, when they sent a fleet of supertankers to flood the U.S. market with oil during the price war with Russia at the end of March and early April. Back in April, the tanker fleet from Saudi Arabia coincided with the massive oil demand loss and threatened to overflow U.S. storage capacity.

After Saudi Arabia and Russia forged a new pact to cut a record amount of OPEC+ production to support oil prices, the Saudis continue to signal they are intent on helping U.S. inventories shrink by withholding supply.

U.S. imports of Saudi crude in August, with tankers that had likely departed Saudi Arabia in June and July, were estimated to be the lowest since 1985—at 264,000 bpd, according to data from commodity research firm ClipperData, reported by CNN Business.

U.S. imports of Saudi crude oil in September are estimated to further plunge from August, by nearly half to around 140,000 bpd, ClipperData’s preliminary estimates show.

The low volume of Saudi crude loaded in August on tankers en route to the U.S. suggests that U.S. imports of Saudi crude in statistics for September and October will continue to hover around the lowest in decades.

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Apart from keeping supply off the world’s most visible oil market, Saudi Arabia likely has a political motivation to slash shipments to the U.S., after President Donald Trump was unhappy with the Saudi price war in April that damaged U.S. producers, Helima Croft, head of global commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, told CNN Business.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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