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UPDATE 3-Murban crude futures start trading at new ICE, Abu Dhabi exchange

(Adds settlement price, volume)

SINGAPORE, March 30 (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi started trading Murban crude futures contracts on Monday, offering a potential rival benchmark for trading Middle East crude.

The key contract of the new ICE Futures Abu Dhabi (IFAD) oil exchange closed at $64.07 per barrel as of 6 p.m. ET (2200 GMT) with 6,344 lots traded, ICE said on Twitter. Each lot is 1,000 barrels.

Abu Dhabi-based IFAD is backed by the Intercontinental Exchange Inc, Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC) and partners including international oil majors.

“Starting today, Murban futures will be freely traded from Singapore to London, and from Abu Dhabi to New York,” ADNOC Chief Executive Sultan al-Jaber said at the launch event.

The Murban contract, which prices the flagship Abu Dhabi grade that accounts for more than half of ADNOC’s production, will offer an alternative benchmark to Dubai, operated by S&P Global Platts, and Oman crude futures traded on the Dubai Mercantile Exchange (DME).

The contract will enable traders to hedge Middle East crude and refining margins against the grade. It would also allow traders to compare the values of competing supplies from Russia, Europe and the United States with similar quality to Murban using a range of cash-settled derivatives against Brent, West Texas Intermediate.

The contract prices the crude two months ahead with the first expiry month set for June. It is a physically delivered contract with delivery at Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates on a free-on-board (FOB) basis.

Other partners in IFAD include BP, Total, Inpex, Vitol, Shell, PetroChina , South Korea’s GS Caltex, Japan’s Eneos Holdings and Thailand’s PTT Plc. IFAD’s launch was delayed by nearly a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

ADNOC will set the monthly official selling price (OSP) for Murban based on the futures contract and price its other three grades, Das, Umm Lulu and Upper Zakum, at differentials to the Murban contract. To allow its oil be freely traded, the producer removed restrictions on destinations for all its crude exports ahead of the launch.

Murban is considered as a light sweet crude and has an API gravity of 39.9 degrees and a sulphur content of 0.78%, with output of about 2 million barrels per day (bpd), according to ICE. API gravity measures a crude’s density.

The UAE, the third biggest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq, pumps about 2.5 million to 3 million bpd, mostly produced by ADNOC.

Reporting by Florence Tan; editing by Richard Pullin and Carmel Crimmins

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