As various types of crude pass through the supply chain from inland shale fields spanning Texas to North Dakota, they risk picking up impurities before reaching Asia – the world's biggest oil-consuming region. Specifically, refiners are worried about the presence of problematic metals as well as a class of chemical compounds known as oxygenates, which can affect the quality and type of fuel they produce.
Two refiners in South Korea – the top buyer of US seaborne supply – have rejected cargoes in recent months due to contamination that makes processing difficult. Growing North American output from dozens of fields pushes everything from highly-volatile oil to sticky residue through shared tributaries and trunk pipes. Smaller carriers then take cargoes from shallow-water ports to giant supertankers in the Gulf of Mexico for hauling to far-away buyers.
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