* July WCS last at $16/bbl under WTI
* July synthetic last at $1.50/bbl above WTI
CALGARY, Alberta, June 5 (Reuters) - Canadian cash crude prices strengthened on Wednesday on reports that refinery demand may rise as maintenance shutdowns are completed.
Western Canada Select heavy blend for July delivery last traded at $16.00 per barrel under the West Texas Intermediate benchmark, according to Shorcan Energy Brokers. That compares with the previous day’s settlement price of $17.50 under the benchmark.
Light synthetic crude from the oil sands for July last traded at a premium of C$1.50 per barrel to WTI, up from a settlement price on Tuesday of $0.60 per barrel above the benchmark.
The heavy crude price rose on separate reports that two major refineries that process Canadian crude could return to service after prolonged shutdowns.
Genscape, an oil market intelligence service, said on Wednesday that Exxon Mobil Corp’s 238,600 barrel per day Joliet refinery was conducting preliminary restart activities after a shutdown that began April 14 and said the facility was likely to return to service before the end of the month.
Reuters sources said BP Plc is readying a major crude processing unit at its 405,000 bpd Whiting, Illinois, refinery for restart, although it’s unlikely to be in production before month’s end. The crude distillation unit has been closed since November as the refinery readies an expansion that will boost its use of Canadian crude to 350,000 bpd from 80,000 bpd.