April 1, 2014 / 9:52 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Oil sands synthetic crude hits 9-month highs, maintenance looms

* May synthetic last trades at $3.95/bbl above WTI

* May WCS last trades at $18.70/bbl below WTI (Adds WCS prices)

By Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta, April 1 (Reuters) - Light synthetic crude from the oil sands reached a nine-month high on Tuesday as traders looked ahead to planned maintenance at the 286,000 barrel per day Syncrude project in northern Alberta.

Synthetic crude for May delivery traded as high as $4.25 per barrel above the West Texas Intermediate benchmark, the most since early July, before easing to last trade at $3.95 per barrel above WTI.

On Monday synthetic crude for May delivery settled at $3.25 per barrel above the benchmark, according to Shorcan Energy brokers.

Two traders in Calgary said synthetic prices were rising in anticipation of maintenance at the Syncrude oil sands project that is due to start during the second quarter.

Canadian Oil Sands, which owns the largest share in Syncrude, said earlier this year it would start maintenance on a major bitumen upgrader known as Coker 8-2 during the second quarter.

A spokesman for Canadian Oil Sands said that maintenance was still scheduled but declined to give further details on when exactly it will start.

Western Canada Select heavy blend for May delivery also strengthened, last trading at $18.70 per barrel below WTI. That compares with a settlement price on Monday of $19.15 per barrel below the benchmark.

Traders said there was little fundamental news affecting the price action in heavy crude on Tuesday, which was the first day of the April trading cycle.

The bulk of trading in the Canadian crude market takes place during a nearly three-week-long period between the first of the month and the day before pipeline nominations are due. (Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by David Gregorio and Steve Orlofsky)

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