April 5, 2010 / 5:12 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-U.S. cash crude little affected by tanker hijack

* Mars up 10 cents, Southern Green Canyon up 5 cents

* Traders, brokers say plenty of substitute oil available

* Valero says hijacking not expected to impact operations

(Adds Valero comment on crude supply)

By Bruce Nichols

HOUSTON, April 5 (Reuters) - The pirate hijacking of a supertanker-load of Iraqi crude bound for the United States over the weekend had little effect on the U.S. cash crude market early Monday, traders and brokers said.

Mars sour MRS-, which is a Gulf of Mexico crude similar to Iraqi oil, sold 10 cents stronger at $3.90 a barrel under West Texas Intermediate CLc1 in early trading, but traders said that was not a significant move.

Another Gulf Coast substitute, Southern Green Canyon medium sour SGC-, traded up 5 cents at $4.55 under the screen.

The market has plenty of medium and heavy sour crude, including an oversupply of Urals grades from Russia and ample supplies of Arab medium at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port in Louisiana, traders and brokers said.

Somali pirates on Sunday seized the Samho Dream, which can carry more than 2 million barrels of crude. A company spokesman confirmed that the cargo belonged to Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N), a big U.S. refining company based in Texas. [ID:nLDE633091]

“Because the cargo was still several weeks from arriving at the U.S. Gulf Coast, there is plenty of time to replace the supply,” Valero spokesman Bill Day said. “It is not expected to have any impact on Valero operations.”

Market participants said Valero did not appear to be buying replacement oil in quantity early Monday, but sources said that could change later as the crude oil supply situation became clearer.

“I have not seen Valero yet,” a broker said at midmorning.

Refinery run rates have been low for this time of year with the economy recovering from recession. [ID: nN31217716] That has kept a ceiling on overall refinery demand for crude.

Mediterranean refineries that use medium sours head into turnaround season in April and May, sending more of that grade to U.S. refiners at this time of the year, sources said.

A fire in a Tesoro Corp TSO.N Washington state refinery fire Friday cut the refiner’s need for Alaska North Slope crude, another medium sour. [ID: nN04150304].

The West Coast market is geographically separated from the Gulf Coast where the hijacked cargo was headed, so it was not immediately clear whether crude bound for the West Coast could be shuffled to facilitate substitutions, traders said. (Reporting by Bruce Nichols; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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