04/08/2010 00:00 AST

Saudi Arabia's Rabigh Refining and Petrochemical Co (PetroRabigh) experienced a technical difficulty that halted production, meaning the leading oil exporter needs to import around five cargoes of gasoline, traders said.

No one from PetroRabigh was immediately available to comment.

PetroRabigh, an export-oriented joint venture between state oil giant Saudi Aramco and Japan's Sumitomo Chemical, has the capacity to produce up to 60,000 barrels per day (bpd) of high octane gasoline converted from fuel oil.

"There was a technical problem at PetroRabigh which caused production to be halted two days ago and the unit is under maintenance which can take up to two weeks," said a Gulf-based trader, adding the kingdom was looking to import around five cargoes this month.

The world's top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, typically imports between 60,000 bpd to 70,000 bpd of gasoline monthly, traders said.

"Saudi will need to import because of this shortage, and that would help reduce the oversupply we are seeing in the market which is keeping prices down," said another Dubai-based trader. Both traders asked not to be named.

Gasoline markets have struggled against oversupply this summer as cargoes initially destined for Iran were diverted following new rounds of sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union.


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