reuters logoLONDON – Russian Urals crude strengthened in the Baltic after loading dates for early March showed a possibility of lower-than-usual volumes.

Urals exports are expected to shrink in early March, but could increase later in the month due to heavy maintenance schedules at domestic refineries, traders said on Friday. Urals supplies from the Baltic ports of Primorsk and Ust-Luga will amount to 800,000 tonnes in March 1-6, down from 1.1 million tonnes for the same period in February, a preliminary loading schedule showed.

Russian refinery runs are expected to fall by 1 million tonnes due to maintenance next month, one trader said, which should free up more crude for export from the Baltic.

“I think they will stack up more cargoes to Primorsk and Ust-Luga,” he said.

Exports from the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk will total 580,000 tonnes for March 1-6, down from 660,000 tonnes for the same period in February, according to the schedule, seen by Reuters.

February exports were boosted by shipments delayed from January when the port was forced to close several times due to storms.

A 4 percent rise in Russia’s export tax next month, to $420.6 per tonne, will also help to curb exports.

Russia’s oil export duty for March is expected to rise to the highest since May 2012 following an increase in oil prices, calculations by the Finance Ministry and Reuters showed on Friday.

In the Platts window, Shell bid for a cargo in the Baltic at dated Brent minus $1.70 a barrel, some 50 cents stronger than price indications earlier in the week, but found no sellers, traders said. In the Mediterranean, Total bought a cargo from Lukoil at dated Brent minus $1.05 a barrel, some 15 cents weaker than prices for 80,000-tonne cargoes earlier in the week.

In tender news, TNK-BP offered to sell a 140,000-tonne cargo from Novorossiisk for March 5-6 delivery.

A fire at Algeria’s Skikda refinery was extinguished, damaging its power generator which is expected to be replaced within three days, trade sources said on Friday.

The fire broke out on Thursday evening due to a fault in the electricity system during maintenance work. The flames were extinguished several hours later, the sources said oil exports from Iraq’s southern Basra terminals were restored to 2.3 million barrels per day on Friday after bad weather reduced shipments a day earlier, shipping sources said.

(Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov, Gleb Gorodyankin; editing by James Jukwey)

(c) 2013 Thomson Reuters, Click For Restrictions

Featured image (c) Shutterstock/billdayone

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