Canada crude - Prices steady in illiquid market

Reuters

CALGARY, Alberta, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Canadian cash crude prices were steady in thin trading on Thursday, holding on to recent gains despite Enbridge Inc and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP rationing pipeline space in January.

Traders said the National Energy Board's approval of Enbridge's proposal to build a pipeline from Alberta's oil sands to Canada's Pacific coast had little impact on prices given the pipeline is unlikely to be operational before 2017 at the earliest.

"I think it brings a touch of positive sentiment," said one Calgary crude trader. "The counter however, may be that producers may get more enthusiastic and advance projects, making more oil available prior to (pipeline) capacity being available and hence put pressure on prices."

Western Canada Select heavy blend for January delivery did not trade on Thursday, according to Shorcan Energy brokers, having settled on Wednesday at $27.50 per barrel below the West Texas Intermediate benchmark.

WCS for February delivery traded at $23.00 per barrel below WTI, unchanged from Wednesday's settlement.

Heavy crude prices have rallied after hitting $41.50 per barrel below WTI on Nov. 5 as traders positioned for stronger demand in 2014.

Citgo Petroleum Corp will attempt to restart a unit at its 174,500 barrel-per-day Lemont, Illinois, refinery in January, while BP Plc has finished the commissioning of units associated with a $4 billion upgrade at its 405,000 bpd Whiting, Indiana, refinery.

Those expectations helped the market shrug off news of apportionment on Enbridge's Mainline export network to the United States and eastern Canada and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline, that runs from the oil sands to the coast of British Columbia.

High pipeline apportionment can fan concerns about crude getting bottlenecked in Alberta and exacerbate price discounts on Canadian crude.

Light synthetic crude from the oil sands last traded at $4 per barrel below WTI, unchanged from Wednesday's settlement.

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