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aramKHOBAR: Saudi Aramco will delay naphtha shipments from its Rabigh refinery by about five days, but the reasons for it were not immediately clear, while a gasoline-making unit will stay offline for two-three weeks, traders said on Wednesday.

Despite the brief delay, traders added it would help lift naphtha sentiment, which had been weighed down by weaker demand from Taiwan for nearly two months.

Cracks, the premiums/losses obtained from refining Brent crude into naphtha, raised $6.12 to $99.03 a tonne premium, highest since June 6 at $102.00 a tonne.

The 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) Rabigh refinery was shut on April 21 for a planned maintenance, and resumed operations in June.

"I think Saudi Aramco may have some issues with the naphtha specifications after the refinery restarted," said a trader.

But this could not be confirmed as Saudi Aramco officials could not be immediately reached for comments.

Others said it was more likely due to the refinery not running at full capacity after it returned from maintenance and not a specification issue.

"So naturally there will be less naphtha coming out if their refinery runs have not ramped up," said another trader.

Traders estimated that Rabigh exports around 250,000 tonnes of naphtha a month.

Saudi Aramco, Asia's top naphtha supplier, also exports naphtha from other of its refineries including Yanbu and Jubail.

In total, it exports around 8 million tonnes of naphtha a year but it is net short of gasoline and relies on imports to meet demand.

It typically buys between 60,000-70,000 barrels per day (bpd) or about 216, 00-250,000 tonnes a month, traders say, with demand usually soaring in summer.

But for July, Saudi Aramco is expected to import some 500,000 tonnes due to the maintenance and its gasoline-making unit still shut.

Copyright Reuters, 2011