SINGAPORE- Middle East crude benchmarks Oman and Dubai edged up on Thursday, underpinned by robust demand as more buying interest emerged after spot premiums slumped to multi-month lows.

Qatar Energy has sold al-Shaheen crude loading in February at the lowest premiums in 3 months, trade sources said. 

The four cargoes were sold at premiums averaging at $1.57 a barrel to Dubai quotes, the sources said, down from $3.45 a barrel for January-loading cargoes traded last month.

China's Hengli Petrochemical bought three of them while Japan's top refiner Eneos purchased one, they said. The cargoes will load on Feb. 1-2, 15-16, 25 and 26-27.

Following the tender, Qatar Energy has set the term price for February supplies of the grade at a premium of $1.62 a barrel, the sources said, down from $3.68 a barrel in the previous month.

Rongsheng Petrochemical, the trading arm of Chinese refiner Zhejiang Petrochemical, will close a tender for February spot cargoes later on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Rongsheng bought 1 million barrels each of Abu Dhabi's Upper Zakum crude and Iraqi Basra Medium crude for loading from February or March to December, trade sources said. Sellers and prices were not immediately known.

More refiners from India, Thailand and Taiwan will be buying crude over the next few days.

For Russian grades, spot premiums for February-loading Russian ESPO crude, a popular grade among China's independent refiners, slipped to the lowest in four months after Surgutneftegaz sold two cargoes, trade sources said.

The cargoes to load on Jan. 31-Feb. 5 and Feb. 3-8 were sold at about $3 a barrel above Dubai quotes, likely to Glencore, the sources said, down from premiums ranging from $5 to $6 a barrel for January-loading cargoes traded last month.

Surgut has a second tender closing on Thursday for cargoes loading on Feb. 6-13, 10-17 and 13-20.

Separately, Paramount Energy has sold two ESPO crude cargoes loading in February to Shell and Zhenhua Oil, the sources said. Prices for these cargoes were not immediately known.


About half of U.S. oil pipeline space is sitting unused, heating up competition for barrels in higher-output areas like the Permian Basin in Texas.Q

The share of Middle Eastern oil in India's overall crude imports rebounded to a 16-month high in November as refiners shunned costly Brent-linked long haul grades, tanker arrival data obtained from trade sources showed. 

India's gasoil sales in the first half of December rose from November and compared to the same period last year, preliminary sales data showed on Thursday, reflecting a pick up in industrial activity in the world's third-biggest oil consumer. 

Singapore middle distillate inventories climb to three-week high last week, according to data released on Thursday by Enterprise Singapore. 

(Reporting by Florence Tan; editing by Devika Syamnath) ((; Reuters Messaging: