(Bloomberg) by Andy Hoffman – The world’s largest oil traders are scraping the bottom of the barrel in search of their next big opportunity. Vitol Group and Trafigura Group Pte’s Puma Energy are adding ships and storage to trade bitumen, a thick, syrupy petroleum product used to make asphalt for roads and tar for roofs. Transport of the material, traditionally by truck, train or barge from refineries to local builders, has swelled into a global marketplace as demand climbs far from the source of production. The fight for profits from bitumen, said to come from the “bottom of the barrel” because of its weight, has been driven by fundamental changes in the market. Supply has dropped as aging refineries in Europe and the U.S. are closed or converted, while road construction in Asia and Africa has pushed up consumption. That’s created demand for massive oceangoing tankers that keep the material heated. “It used to be mostly a small distribution business,” Chris Bake, a senior executive at Rotterdam-based Vitol, said in an interview. “Now it is more of a whole arbitrage business requiring a global reach and shipping capacity.” Vitol, the biggest independent oil-trading house, is well-placed to meet the demand. It’s now
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