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Eco California departs San Francisco Bay for Los Angeles to unload ethanol

Houston — The medium range tanker Eco California, after sitting offshore near San Francisco since October 11, departed Friday for Los Angeles, according to cFlow, Platts trade-flow software.

The Eco California had been waiting to discharge Brazilian ethanol into NuStar's Selby terminal, the only terminal in the San Francisco area that can accept ethanol imports.

Two ethanol storage tanks at the terminal caught fire October 15 and the company declared a force majeure in the aftermath, preventing any product from moving from the ships into the terminal.

The Sadah Silver, which has been in the San Francisco Bay for more than three weeks waiting to discharge its cargo of ethanol, remained in the bay Friday.

Sources were unsure if the Eco California would find space to unload in Los Angeles, as it stopped in the port from October 6-8 its way north to San Francisco, according to cFlow.

Ethanol imports represent significant influxes of product into California, unlike the regular and steady supply from domestic sources. That means importers have to carefully draw down inventories to make room for arriving cargoes.

The fire at NuStar sent prompt product higher as buyers had to cover short positions by buying in the domestic market while the cargoes waiting offshore had difficulty finding a place to discharge.

Carbon credits under California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard traded at an all-time high Friday as buyers covered short positions after selling the credits expected to be generated by the imports.

Credits for December transfer traded at $207/mt Friday morning, up from the S&P Global Platts assessment of $206/mt Thursday.

California is typically the destination for imports as sugarcane-based ethanol generates additional value from credits under the state's LCFS.

Sources also said the pull from California was supporting domestic ethanol prices, with the front-month ethanol swap trading up to $1.49/gal Friday, from Thursday's $1.4650/gal.

-- Josh Pedrick, joshua.pedrick@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Pankti Mehta, newsdesk@spglobal.com