RPT-UPDATE 1-CME plans to launch e-auction for U.S. crude oil exports

(Repeats to additional subscribers, with no change to text)

* Enterprise to offer WTI Midland crude on CME e-auction platform

* First auction scheduled for early March

SINGAPORE, Jan 15 (Reuters) - CME Group said on Tuesday it plans to launch an electronic auction platform with U.S. energy firm Enterprise Products Partners LP in March to sell U.S. spot crude oil export cargoes.

The United States became the world’s largest oil producer last year as shale production hit new highs, encouraging exchanges and pricing agencies to launch new mechanisms to allow companies to price and hedge U.S. oil exports.

Enterprise will offer light sweet crude oil from Midland, Texas, to be loaded at the Enterprise Houston Ship Channel (EHSC) terminal in the first auction scheduled to be held in early March, CME said in a statement.

Buyers will place bids during the auction at prices based on West Texas Intermediate (WTI) Houston futures.

“The electronic auction will provide a competitive and transparent venue for firms across the world to efficiently hedge U.S. crude oil,” the exchange said.

The auction process is similar to one held by CME’s affiliate Dubai Mercantile Exchange for Middle East crude.

Enterprise transports crude oil from the Permian Basin to Houston via the Midland-to-ECHO pipeline system, which has a capacity of 575,000 barrels per day. The ECHO terminal in Houston can store 7.4 million barrels of crude oil.

CME launched its crude oil futures contract deliverable at Houston in November.

Rival Intercontinental Exchange Inc also has a WTI oil contract, deliverable at Magellan Midstream Partners LP’s East Houston terminal.

Reporting by Florence Tan; editing by Richard Pullin