Suncor buys rare North Sea crude as Canadian fire roils supplies

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Suncor Energy SU.TO has bought a rare cargo of North Sea crude, Reuters data shows, sparking talk among traders that the Canadian company has been forced to import oil to feed its nearby refinery as fires across Alberta disrupt supplies.

Suncor is importing nearly 1 million barrels of Ekofisk Blend crude on the Aspen Spirit, a Suezmax which is set to load around May 21 from Teesport in Northern England, according to shipping sources and Reuters Eikon data.

The ship is set to discharge in Portland, Maine, the data showed.

That route, though not unprecedented, is becoming more rare. Only four vessels made that journey last year from the United Kingdom to Maine, with the last vessel arriving in late November.

While it’s not clear where the crude was headed, Portland is the starting point of the Portland-Maine pipeline, which transports crude to Suncor’s refinery in Montreal, Quebec in Canada.

Suncor could not immediately be reached for comment.

The scramble for alternative supplies comes as a massive wildfire in the heart of Canada’s oil sands moved toward energy production facilities on Tuesday, extending a weeks-long shutdown that cut Canadian oil sands output almost in half.

Reporting By Catherine Ngai; additional reporting by Nia Williams in Calgary and Jarrett Renshaw in New York; Editing by Alan Crosby