(Bloomberg) -- Oil traders are shipping West Texas Intermediate to refiners in the Mediterranean to profit from the difference in crude prices between the two regions following the end of a four-decade ban on U.S. exports.
Trafigura Group Pte Ltd. sold a cargo of WTI to a refinery in Israel, said Ben Luckock, global head of crude oil at the commodity trader. The 700,000 barrel cargo of U.S. benchmark crude will be delivered in March.
“The arbitrage to European refiners for WTI loading promptly currently seems to be open,” Luckock said by e-mail. “A number of vessels of WTI crude oil have recently been fixed to Europe.”
The world’s largest independent oil traders from Trafigura to Vitol Group are booking vessels to move U.S. crude to Europe following a congressional deal in December to lift a 1970s-era prohibition on overseas shipments. A glut of WTI has pushed up U.S. stockpiles to a record and cut prices to 12-year lows, widening the spread with benchmark European Brent crude.
Trafigura is not the first trader to ship U.S. oil to the region since the ban was lifted. Vitol, the largest independent oil trader, lifted a crude cargo from the U.S. in early January, that arrived in Italy later that month.
Luckock said it was now profitable to ship WTI crude to Europe and Israel for delivery in March.
WTI for March delivery, which expires Monday, climbed as much as $1.14 to $30.78 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The more-active April future was $1.12 higher at $32.87 a barrel. Brent for March settlement expired on Jan. 29 at $34.74 a barrel, while the contract for April settlement rose $1.11 to $34.12 by 11:52 a.m. on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.
The export of crude to Europe could relieve pressure on storage capacity in the U.S., after stockpiles rose by 2.15 million barrels to 504.1 million last week. That’s the highest level in EIA data going back to 1930.
Supplies at the biggest U.S. oil storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma climbed to a record 64.7 million barrels last week, according to the Energy Information Administration. The site, the delivery point for WTI, has a working capacity of 73 million.
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