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Reuters: Shell books small crude tanker, China-US W.Coast

Mon Aug 14, 2006 1:39am ET

SINGAPORE, Aug 14 (Reuters) – Oil major Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: Quote, Profile, Research) has booked a small dirty petroleum tanker to move crude oil from the Chinese port of Zhoushan to the U.S. West Coast, traders and shipbrokers said on Monday.

Shell is scheduled to load a panamax tanker, typically sized between 50,000 and 79,000 deadweight tonnes, in early September. No further details were immediately available.

Shell, which occasionally makes this run into the U.S. West Coast, is likely to be carrying Oman crude, which it stores in tanks leased from Chinese trader Sinochem, industry sources said.

If true, it would be the second shipment of Oman crude to the U.S. West Coast since BP (BP.L: Quote, Profile, Research) said a week ago it was shutting down its Prudhoe Bay oilfield in Alaska, which feeds the medium-sour ANS grade.

Last week independent U.S. refiner Tesoro Corp (TSO.N: Quote, Profile, Research) which has significant operations on the U.S. West Coast, booked the 80,000-tonne crude oil tanker from Oman to the U.S. West Coast.

The Cape Avila is expected to load sometime in early September, although no further details were available.

About one cargo a month of Oman crude, which is one-half of the Middle East pricing benchmark, normally moves to the West Coast.

In 2005, China shipped 8.3 million barrels of crude oil to the West Coast, U.S. government data showed. It was last seen moving a cargo into the West Coast in June.

Shell has Oman crude coming into Zhoushan, which it stores there. I don’t really know how much tankage they have for this, but it occasionally exports from the port there,” said a Chinese crude oil trader.

BP said at the weekend it would close only half of the 400,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) field while it repairs corroded pipelines.

BP also plans to raise production from 150,000 bpd to an expected 200,000 bpd, half the field’s previous capacity, by the end of August, the company said in a statement on Friday.

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