U.S. oil tanker imports to compensate for Canadian disruption
* Wildfires have cut oil sand production by 1.5 million bpd
* Most of Canadian oil sand crude exported to U.S. by pipeline
* Middle East, Latin American tanker imports to compensate
* But high U.S. crude inventories to act as cap to imports
By Keith Wallis
SINGAPORE, May 10 (Reuters) - Canada's wildfires, which have knocked out some 1.5 million barrels of daily oil production, are expected to drive up tanker imports and freight rates as U.S. consumers seek alternative supplies after a drop in Canadian pipeline supplies.
With most Canadian oil sand crude piped to the United States, importers there will need bigger seaborne imports, mostly into the Gulf of Mexico, adding to existing port congestion.
Although crude stored in North America could be used to overcome some of the disruption, shipping experts expect tanker imports and freight rates to rise.
"To compensate for the shortfall, the U.S. needs to either ramp up other imports, which would be seaborne, or draw down on inventories. The first alternative would be good for tankers now, whilst the second alternative is positive in the longer term," said Trygve Munthe, co-chief executive of Norwegian-based tanker owner DHT Management. Continued...