Ship booked for first condensate export cargo - sources

SAN FRANCISCO, July 15 Tue Jul 15, 2014 7:10pm EDT

SAN FRANCISCO, July 15 (Reuters) - The first condensate cargo for export is due to load in Texas at the end of this week, headed via the Panama Canal to Asia, shipping sources said.

Westport Petroleum Inc., the Franklin, Tennessee-based shipping arm of Japanese trader Mitsui & Co., chartered the BW Zambesi, an LR1 tanker, also known as a Panamax class vessel.

Reuters previously reported that Mitsui had bought a 400,000-barrel cargo, and is said to be being marketed to refiners in Asia.

According to a Reuters shipping database, the BW Zambesi has capacity of more than 76,000 deadweight tons (DWT). Shipping sources said the BW Zambesi will likely carry less than its maximum capacity, due to draft restrictions in the Panama Canal.

The $1.8 million one-way trans-Pacific trip is expected to take a month or more, sources said.

The vessel is currently anchored outside of Galveston, Texas. It arrived in the Galveston Offshore Lightering Area on June 22, according to Reuters shiptracking data.

Shipping industry sources said this was the first cargo of three purchased by Mitsui.

FIRST OF MANY?

The first cargo is a sign that U.S. oil companies could be on the verge of unleashing light, gaseous petroleum from the country's massive oil and gas fields to markets overseas. By the end of the year, as much as 300,000 barrels could be exported each day, according to an analysis by Citibank.

Two companies - Enterprise and Pioneer Natural Resources - have approval from the U.S. Department of Commerce to export condensate that had been minimally processed to reduce volatility. U.S. condensate supply is estimated at about 1 million barrels per day.

The approvals represent a softening of a total ban on U.S. oil exports in place since the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, and they open up the United States to global oil consumers for the first time in a generation.

(Reporting by Anna Louie Sussman; editing by Andrew Hay)

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