Refinery problems have led to oil companies pursuing extra storage capacity in the Gulf of Mexico as onshore facilities are full. From June, Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) markets are expected to benefit from US refiners charting up to 10 tankers to store crude in the Gulf.
Onshore storage capacity has been pushed to the limit by low refining throughput (90% of expected capacity) and also high crude import levels. The US has been importing around 10 million barrels to 11 million barrels a day since April, as refiners plan to stock up prior to the driving season.
Onshore storage capacity has also been reduced by higher crude flow from Canadian pipelines, as oil companies accelerate production of the oil held in sand deposits in Alberta.
International oil traders Vitol have chartered four VLCCs with a combined capacity of 4.5 million barrels, and US-based Koch has booked three VLCCs. Shell, BP and Valero also have fixed tonnage.
These tankers are booked on short-term periods of around 10-day intervals with options of booking for up to one or two months. The oil companies are reportedly paying rates of around $50,000 to $60,000 (37,000 to 44,000) a day for a VLCC to store crude.
Production problems in Nigeria mean the west African tanker market is also especially quiet.