Slow Asian crude oil output growth opens way for more imports
* Asia-Pacific output to rise slightly to 8.35 mln bpd in 2014
* Malaysia, Indonesia project upgrades delayed to next year
* More imports needed as refinery capacity rises
By Florence Tan
SINGAPORE, March 24 (Reuters) - Oil producers from Africa to the Americas have a growing opportunity to supply crude to the Asia-Pacific, as the region's output stagnates and massive refining capacity comes online in China and India.
Asian refiners import - mostly from the Middle East - more than twice the volume of crude produced regionally, and have been taking more shipments from West Africa since 2009. The last two years they have also been buying more from Europe, Canada and South America whenever prices and shipping costs allow.
Now, with regional producers struggling to hold supply steady as mature fields decline, Kazakhstan, Nigeria and Mexico are looking to ship more crude to Asia as the U.S. shale oil boom slashes the need for imports there.
"U.S. imports are down and what they are not importing are mostly light sweets from Africa because crude produced in the U.S. is also light sweet," said Thailand-based independent oil analyst John Vautrain.
Asia will require an additional 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) of low-sulphur or sweet crudes in 2014 compared with last year, to meet demand from new refineries and for blending with cheaper, low quality oil, according to an oil company analyst. Continuación...