HOUSTON, Oct 16 (Reuters) - State-run oil company Petroecuador has had difficulty striking financial terms for a deal to import about 30 million barrels of medium crude, traders involved in the discussions told Reuters.
Ecuador arranged meetings this week in Houston with more than 20 oil suppliers interested in selling crude to the company. The firm is expecting to start paying for the oil 12 to 18 months after delivery of the first cargo.
"There is no guarantee. This would be similar than selling under open credit, but receiving the money a year or more after first delivery. It implies a high risk," one of the sources said.
Petroecuador was not immediately available for comment on the discussions.
More than 70 percent of Ecuador's oil exports are sold to Chinese and Thai firms under loan-for-oil agreements, so the credits delivered to the state-run company are secured with barrels that can be easily resold on the open market to monetize the pending debt.
The new proposal by Petroecuador is to import up to 110,000 barrels per day (bpd) of a medium sweet crude to be processed at Ecuador's Esmeraldas refinery under a financial agreement, while freeing the same volume of domestic crude for spot sales.
Besides the financial risk, the maneuver also implies logistic challenges: Ecuador is asking to receive four to five monthly cargoes of up to 500,000 barrels each at its ports. The shipments would reach the maximum capacity that it can handle for imports, which increases freight costs to be paid by the supplier.
An Aframax carrying half a million barrels of a West African crude would have to sail around South America to reach Ecuadorian ports on the Pacific ocean. To cut the distance by crossing through Panama canal, a tanker would have to carry a smaller volume.
"It could be a good opportunity for a company full of West African medium crudes, for example. But being paid under the proposed mechanism while assuming logistic costs in the middle of current oil prices makes the negotiation very difficult," another source said.
A trip from Angola or Nigeria to Ecuador's Balao terminal costs some $5 per barrel in an Aframax and even more in a smaller tanker, one of the traders detailed.
"At the end of the day, Ecuador could be forced to build a swap to make this work: to deliver the imported medium crude to its creditors and keep refining its own crude to avoid costs resulting from inefficiencies in the middle," said the source.
Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Jessicas Resnick-Ault, Bernard Orr