April 22, 2009 / 8:32 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Alaska crude headed for U.S. Gulf Coast - Exxon

HOUSTON, April 22 (Reuters) - A supertanker cargo of Alaska North Slope crude ASW- is headed for the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, an unusual destination for crude from Alaska, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil’s (XOM.N) shipping affiliate confirmed Wednesday.

The Alaska crude is similar in gravity and sulfur content to some Gulf Coast grades of oil, but there could be nonmarket reasons for the voyage, including retiring the vessel from the Alaska trade. It is the last single-hull ship on that service.

Traders said the cargo is being sold for $1.25 a barrel over West Texas Intermediate CLc1, well above the discount of $3 to $5 for which recent ANS cargoes have sold on the West Coast. According to a maritime database, it is due to arrive later this week.

A LOOP spokeswoman declined comment. The spokesman for SeaRiver Maritime Inc, a wholly owned affiliate of Exxon Mobil, declined to comment on the price reported by traders.

Alaska crude once flowed regularly to the United States, traveling by tanker to Panama, crossing the Isthmus of Panama by pipeline and then being tankered to U.S. refineries. Supertankers are too big to transit the canal.

But Alaska oil has flowed almost exclusively to the U.S. West Coast in recent years.

The very large crude carrier SeaRiver Long Beach is a sister ship to the Exxon Valdez, which in 1989 ran aground and leaked millions of gallons oil in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in one of the world’s largest oil spills.

An official of the Washington State Department of Ecology said the 985-foot-long (300-meter-long) SeaRiver Long Beach was to stop hauling crude from Alaska to the U.S. West Coast by January 2010.

Although it exceeds current regulatory standards for that voyage, the SeaRiver Long Beach is the last single-hull tanker on that service. Double-hull tankers have been adopted to minimize the risk of spills.

Spokesman Ray Botto of SeaRiver Maritime declined to say what the ship’s future holds after its latest voyage from Valdez to the LOOP around Cape Horn. (Editing by Jim Marshall) (b.nichols@thomsonreuters.com; +1 713 210 8510; Reuters Messaging: bruce.nichols.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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