North Sea Forties crude differentials were unchanged on Tuesday in light trade, supported by upcoming North Sea maintenance, but the forward curve weakened due to the lack of arbitrage opportunities to Asia.
Two potential VLCC shipments to Asia appeared to have been called off. The VLCC Phoenix Vanguard was sailing south past Portugal after calling at Exxon's Fawley refinery, even though some traders expected it to return to Hound Point to pick up another cargo of Forties this week.
The BW Utah was again anchored off Hound Point, having delivered a cargo from there to the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp hub last week. Traders said it could still have time to load a cargo for Asia before Jetty 1 closes for two months of maintenance work, but most expressed doubts.
With little chance of arbitraging barrels to Asia in May and June, traders expected North Sea maintenance, which is expected to cut supplies, to drive crude values in the region in the coming weeks.
But later this summer, the gradual return of barrels from Libya may help offset North Sea maintenance.
Production in Libya is now around 220,000 barrels per day, and the eastern port of Hariga has exported its first tanker of crude since a deal to reopen the docks was struck between Tripoli and rebel militias.
Three other major ports still remain closed, however.
Shell sold a cargo of Forties to Statoil for loading May 4-6 at parity to dated Brent.
This was in line with the last trade, when Chevron sold a Forties cargo loading on May 4-6 to Shell at parity with dated Brent.
(Reporting by David Sheppard; editing by Jane Baird)