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UPDATE 1-Argus Media will stick to old dated Brent amid benchmark debate

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·3 min read
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* Argus says market OK with adding WTI but not shift to CIF

* Shift to a CIF dated Brent would be very difficult

* Traders requested to add Argus DFL to exchange

* Argus says WTI is valid addition but not well thought out (Adds comment by Argus)

By Julia Payne

LONDON, March 11 (Reuters) - Commodities and energy pricing agency Argus Media said some traders looked at switching to the Argus dated Brent when competitor Platts, which sets the benchmark used by the industry, faced backlash after announcing reforms.

Dated Brent is a European benchmark used globally and set daily by S&P Global Platts. It is used to price more than half the world's physical oil trades and in the settlement of Brent futures on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). It is also used to price gas and in government tax formulas.

However, the benchmark's relevance as a global marker has come into question as output of the North Sea oil grades that underpin dated is shrinking, leaving it vulnerable to outsized positions.

In an effort to solve this issue, Platts announced last month it would add U.S. crude WTI Midland to the grades underlying its benchmark from July 2022.

The addition was expected but traders were shocked by another switch - turning dated Brent into a contract that includes freight and related costs, known as CIF, from a FOB contract which does not have freight. On Wednesday, Platts said it would delay the changes.

Platts has long dominated this benchmark but Argus has always set its own dated Brent with an eye to eventually grabbing market share. Argus benchmarks hold sway in key markets such as in U.S. crude and European gasoline.

"We will commit to maintaining Argus North Sea dated as an FOB assessment and not switching to CIF, it's pretty clear that's not what the market wants," James Gooder, Argus vice president for crude, said in an Argus webinar on Thursday.

Given WTI would dominate the assessment half the time, according to Argus data, this could create European regulatory issues. Argus said adding WTI, along with other European and West African grades, should still be considered but with a more thought-out plan.

Euan Craik, who is Argus president for petroleum sectors, said market participants who were concerned by Platts' proposals had requested adding an Argus dated-to-frontline (DFL) on the exchange.

The contract would cover the difference between the daily Argus dated Brent and Brent futures.

Argus added that Platts' proposed changes would result in an extremely difficult transition for the market and the exchange as they would impact a wide set of dated-linked contracts like DFLs, exchange-for-physical (EFP) or contract-for-difference (CFD).

"The exchange has handled it before but it wasn't easy, when the expiry dates changed from 15 days to a month ahead a few years ago," Gooder said. "This is an order of magnitude more difficult." (Reporting by Julia Payne in London Editing by Matthew Lewis)