* U.S. refiners received 1.1 mln bbls from PTT in September
* Ecuador’s government defends the pact amid criticism
By Marianna Parraga
Oct 7 (Reuters) - Thai oil firm PTT PCL has been reselling around 11 percent of Ecuador’s monthly exports, according to internal documents from state-run Petroecuador and Reuters data, as the Asian firm gains a foothold in oil trading in the Americas.
So far, none of the OPEC member’s crude has been directly shipped to Thailand since a PTT unit signed an accord in June that gave the Andean country a $2.5 billion credit line in exchange for 116.6 million barrels of crude deliveries over five years, or up to 64,000 barrels per day (bpd).
Instead, the deal has contributed to a recent spike in Oriente and Napo crudes arriving in Peru and the United States, where Chinese firms have been active for years reselling Ecuadorian oil obtained through crude-for-loan deals.
Ecuador’s government in the past has criticized oil “intermediaries.” But the country’s pact with PTT does not prohibit it from trading Ecuadorian oil, which is sold at a discount to Thailand’s top energy company, allowing it to make a profit from resales.
In September, tankers Aqualegacy, Cotopaxi and Overseas Visayas sailed to El Segundo terminal in California and the Peruvian ports of Callao and Pampilla.
PTT was the lifter in Ecuador and its Singapore-based unit, International Trading Ltd, was the first recipient in the United States and Peru.
State-controlled PTT declined to comment.
But Petroecuador’s general manager, Carlos Pareja, told journalists on Tuesday the agreement allows “free placement” of the delivered crude and added that intermediaries were involved.
PTT is following in the footsteps of other firms that Ecuador has pacts with - Chinese companies Unipec, Andes Petroleum and PetroChina Co, which also are not required to refine the Ecuadorian crude they buy and sell to similar customers.
PTT said in August it was getting a price discount after agreeing with cash-strapped Petroecuador to pay for the crude in advance, with the first oil lot valued at some $500 million.
“This is to secure oil supply for us and to resell to buyers,” said PTT’s chief financial officer, Wirat Uanarumit. He added that the company aimed to expand into oil trading in South America after the deal.
Petroecuador delivered 1.44 million barrels of Oriente crude to PTT in September with the U.S. West Coast and Peru as destinations, according to its loading program and vessel tracking data. In July and August, PTT’s barrels ended up in the United States, Peru and Nicaragua.
Of total Ecuadorian exports of 440,000 barrels per day last month, Chinese and Thai firms took 84 percent, Petroecuador’s program reveals.
As a result, it is becoming harder and harder to buy crude directly from Petroecuador, traders said. Last year, pricing service Argus halted assessments for Ecuadorian crudes, citing a lack of validated trades.
Ecuador and Venezuela have received more than $65 billion from China since 2007 in exchange for oil, limiting their ability to collect cash from their oil company’s shipments.
The deal with PTT has been criticized in Ecuador for not being done through a public tender, but president Rafael Correa has defended it. “Its interest rate is very good, around 7 percent,” he said.
Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston; Additional reporting by Alexandra Valencia in Quito and Manunphattr Dhanananphorn in Bangkok; Editing by Terry Wade and Frances Kerry