(Updates with details on Pemex shipment, additional quotes)
By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Osamu Tsukimori
SINGAPORE/TOKYO, April 14 (Reuters) - Mexican oil company Pemex said that it was in talks with buyers in Japan and South Korea over the chloride content in one of its light crude shipments and would offer discounts if the level of the chemical, which can cause corrosion, was higher than specified.
State-run Pemex said last month that it was exporting about 4 million barrels via five cargoes of its Isthmus crude to South Korea in January through April, with most of that going to Hyundai Oilbank and the rest to GS Caltex. Japan also imports Mexican crude.
With the sale price set at a discount of $5.45 to $7.85 a barrel to a basket of oil benchmarks in January through April, the five cargoes have a cash value of about $200 million.
Three of those cargoes have been received in Asia. Refinery sources said they contained unusually high levels of potentially damaging chloride. A fourth cargo is due for delivery this month.
P.M.I. Comercio Internacional, Pemex’s commercial arm, said it was in discussions with refiners in Japan and South Korea about the measurements of chloride.
“If the chloride is higher than what we specified, of course the price comes down a little bit,” P.M.I. Chief Executive Officer Jose Manuel Carrera said in a telephone interview, noting that the contracts call for such a “commercial adjustment.”
Pemex said it had received a complaint about chloride levels outside specification in one light crude shipment and was studying the difference in readings within the framework of the contract.
“This is normal,” Carrera said. “No one has told me they have suffered damage.”
Pemex said it continued to export 70,000 barrels of light crude a day to Japan and South Korea.
A spokesman for South Korea’s Hyundai Oilbank said the company was considering a claim against Pemex over higher-than-specified chloride contents. Another spokesman said the chloride content in a 1-million-barrel Isthmus cargo from March was “manageable” and that there had been no disruptions.
GS Caltex, which has also recently imported from Pemex, declined to comment.
South Korea earlier this year imported Mexican crude for the first time in 25 years, while Japan last year resumed buying it after a break of 11 years.
A spokesman at Japan’s Cosmo Oil, which imported 1 million barrels of Isthmus crude in February, said it was experiencing no disruptions to its main crude distillation units.
A senior industry source familiar with the matter said Pemex had informed Cosmo Oil that the chloride figures “were a little high.” The source added, though, that the figures were not a big problem since the refineries could dilute Pemex’s supplies with other crudes to make them easier to process.
The source said it was unclear whether mid-March shutdowns of Cosmo Oil’s secondary refining units at Yokkaichi and Sakaiof for up to a week were related to chloride problems. (Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Singapore, Ana Isabel Martinez in Mexico and Osamu Tsukimori in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Meeyoung Cho in Seoul; Writing by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Crispian Balmer, Simon Gardner and Lisa Von Ahn)