* Buys around 100,000-120,000T in rare purchase
* Total, Vitol will be suppliers- trade
* Med gasoline prices flip to premium to north Europe (Adds detail on refinery maintenance)
By Emma Farge
LONDON, July 6 (Reuters) - Algeria has bought four gasoline cargoes of between 25,000-30,000 tonnes each for prompt delivery, trade sources said on Wednesday, pushing up gasoline prices in the Mediterranean to unusual premiums.
The volumes will help replace lost output from Sonatrach’s 335,000 barrel per day Skikda refinery, the country’s largest, which trade sources said was partly shut for maintenance work.
Trade sources said that oil trading firm Vitol and oil major Total were both winners of the tender.
The North African oil exporter does not usually buy gasoline in bulk and the purchase of around 100,000 tonnes has boosted Mediterranean gasoline prices to around $17 a tonne above northwest Europe.
As recently as early June, Mediterranean prices were at a discount to northwest Europe. “There’s been massive buying in the Mediterranean,” said a gasoline trader.
Traders said refinery maintenance work at Skikda has boosted import requirements but added the purchase may also have been motivated an anticipated rise in consumption ahead of a Muslim holiday next month.
Prices have also received a boost due to strong demand from Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, which bought an extra 180,000 tonnes in May and June.
Trade sources said demand from West Africa has also contributed to the stronger prices.
Nigeria is a net importer of gasoline due to a lack of refining capacity and typically makes its purchases through quarterly buy tenders. A spokesman for state oil firm NNPC said that it will not issue a buy tender until the end of July and is instead sourcing fuels by trading crude oil for products.
“They have not put any tender out. Lifters are exchanging crude for products to bridge the gap. The next tender will be later this month,” said the spokesman. (Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Simon Falush and Jessica Donati, editing by Anthony Barker)