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Houston — Shell is continuing scheduled maintenance at its US Gulf of Mexico Mars and Ursa oil platforms, work some market sources had said was finished, the company has reported.

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The ongoing work was confirmed late Tuesday by Shell spokesman Curtis Smith, declining to say in an email when the work is expected to be completed.

Beginning in late March, the scheduled maintenance on both platforms and resulting tighter supply added price support to medium domestic sour grade Mars.

The grade reached a two-month high of 55 cents/b versus WTI cash on April 11, up from an eight-month low of minus $1.65/b February 13. Since the start of March, Mars has gained 60 cents/b to end at WTI cash flat Tuesday.

Despite the month-on-month increase, the grade has tumbled lower this week on a narrower Dubai/WTI swap spread.

Since the spread reached a three-month high of $1.70/b April 10, it has narrowed 68 cents/b to put second-month Dubai at a $1.02/b premium over front-month WTI.

As the spread narrows, WTI-based sour grades become less competitive in export and domestic markets with Dubai-based Middle Eastern grades.

The Mars and Ursa platforms are about 130 miles offshore New Orleans and produce both oil and a smaller amount of gas.

Recent production estimates put current output from the Mars offshore field at around 147.9 million b/d, according to data from S&P Global Platts Analytics.

--Mary Hogan,
--Edited by Richard Rubin,