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China to receive its first ANS crude oil cargo directly from US

China is likely to receive a rare cargo of Alaska North Slope crude shipped directly from the Alaskan port of Valdez this month.

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The Suezmax vessel Tianlong Spirit, which was seen fixed by BP to move East from Valdez, departing on July 30, was in the Sea of Japan Monday, with the destination now set for Ningbo and expected to arrive on August 19, according to S&P Global Platts ship tracking software cFlow.

Should the vessel discharge in China it would mark a rare arbitrage of the North American crude grade into the largest importer for crude in Asia.

China was said have imported around 31,000 mt of the medium-heavy sour crude in July 2015, but the size of the cargo indicated it was likely to have loaded from bonded storage in South Korea instead of from the US.

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With the destination set as Ningbo, the cargo was likely to go to Sinopec's 462,000 b/d Zhenhai refinery, the biggest refinery in China.

A US cargo arrival in China was reported in May 2015, believed to be the first arrival from the US arrival since 2007, according to the GAC data available to Platts.

The US supplied 211,633 mt of crude to China over the first half of 2016, compared with 62,420 mt over the whole year of 2015.

As the US lifted its 40-year oil export ban, more refineries signalled interest in US crudes.

Sinopec's 361,000 b/d Maoming refinery received a total 180,000 of US Gulf Coast sour crude in May and June in two separate cargoes.

Some independent refineries have also enquired after US crudes. "We want to diversify our feedstock grades," said a source from the Shandong-based Dongming Petrochemical. "We would like to learn more about US crude and see whether there is any opportunity to import."

--Daniel Colover, daniel.colover@spglobal.com
--Oceana Zhou, oceana.zhou@spglobal.com