Chevron Moves To Ship VLCC With North Sea Crude To Asia

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LONDON–Recently weakened prices of North Sea crude grades that form global benchmark Brent could find support in the coming days as up to 2 million barrels of oil are set to leave the region for Asia later this month, according to shipping fixtures seen by Dow Jones Newswires Monday.

Chevron moved to charter the Very Large Crude Carrier, or VLCC, Front Commanche to load crude in Hound Point in the U.K. Sept. 18-20, the fixtures showed. Hound Point is the export point for Forties crude, the main component of Brent.

If the VLCC leaves for Asia, it will be the first known shipping in two months amid a sharp fall in North Sea oil output due to a heavy oil field maintenance program in September and a Norwegian strike in July.

But Forties prices eased last week despite the maintenance season, with a mid-September cargo changing hands at a 30 cent discount to physical benchmark Brent.

Crude traders have said that refiners may have bought crude grades from other regions ahead of the North Sea field maintenance season, thus putting downwards pressure on prices of North Sea oil.

Arbitrage of Forties and other North Sea grades to Asia–and namely to South Korea–provided strong support to Brent futures earlier this year.

-By Konstantin Rozhnov. (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.