Canada crude-WCS discount shrinks to smallest since November

Wed Feb 6, 2013 1:14pm EST

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* March WCS quoted at $26.75/bbl under WTI
    * March synthetic $0.65/bbl over WTI
    * Apportionment eases, Kearl start-up pushed back

    CALGARY, Alberta, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Canadian heavy crude
prices climbed to their highest point in 12 weeks on Wednesday
on the back of reduced pipeline congestion and speculation that
some players may have been caught short, trading sources said.
    Western Canada Select heavy blend for March delivery last
sold for $26.75 a barrel under benchmark West Texas
Intermediate, compared with a Tuesday settlement of $28.75 a
barrel under, according to Shorcan Energy Brokers. That was its
narrowest differential since Nov. 12.
    Traders said they were surprised by this month's steady
gains, which come after two months of discounts that at times
topped $40 a barrel. Surging production, tight pipeline capacity
and a series of refinery outages have been blamed for the slump.
    Some of the recent strength is the result of "most likely,
some guys having to cover losses," one marketer said.
    Apportionment levels on Enbridge Inc's pipeline
network to the U.S. Midwest are below those set for last month,
easing some of the price pressure, traders have said.
    The company put single-digit restrictions on Line 5, 4 and
67, and 21 percent apportionment on Line 6B. 
Last month Enbridge imposed a rare mid-month apportionment.
    In addition, the start-up of Imperial's 110,000 barrel a day
Kearl project in northern Alberta, first expected to begin
commercial production at the end of 2012, is now targeted for
the end of the first quarter. Full production is scheduled for
the "next several months". 
    Light synthetic crude prices also strengthened on Wednesday
after Suncor Energy Inc and Syncrude Canada reported
lower oil sands-derived crude production for January.
  
    March light synthetic last sold for 65 cents above WTI,
compared with a discount of 35 cents on Tuesday.
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