(Bloomberg) -- Oil kingpin Saudi Arabia is seeking to purchase an unusually large amount of diesel in a surprise move for the net exporter, adding strain when diesel markets already are in short supply.

Aramco Trading sought 1.2 million to 4.6 million barrels of low sulfur diesel for delivery to several ports in Saudi Arabia by mid-March to April via a tender, said traders close to the matter, who asked not to be identified. It’s a rare move from the country, which usually is a net exporter of diesel, according to the traders.

An email sent to Saudi Aramco wasn’t immediately answered outside of regular working hours.

Finding such a large amount of fuel in such short time is going to be very difficult, said the traders. It’s coming at a time diesel markets are sharply backwardated -- a structure in which cargoes for near-term delivery are more expensive than ones further out. 

Buyers are grappling with the prospect of a loss of Russian diesel, which would be a major impact to European markets, home to a majority of the country’s exports. Several European buyers have sought cargoes from Asia and the Middle East, and stockpiles of the fuel are running low around the world. 

Asia’s prompt diesel timespread was at a $9.70 a barrel premium at noon Singapore time, compared to less than $2 in early February. Profits from turning crude into diesel in Asia have been volatile as well, following the footsteps of Europe, dropping by as much as $15 a barrel on Thursday from the day before.


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