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July 18 (Reuters) - Peru has started expanding the sources of its crude imports, slowly introducing U.S. and Brazilian grades to a slate mostly based on oil from Ecuador, Africa and Trinidad and Tobago, according to Thomson Reuters Trade Flows data.
The numbers show Peru has joined the growing list of Latin American countries increasing purchases of U.S. light crudes for their refineries since an export ban was lifted in late 2015.
"Buying other crudes is a result of a wider variety due to U.S. crude exports. We always choose the option with the best economic value for us," the chief of external markets at Peruvian state-run oil firm Petroperu, Augusto Nunez, said in an interview.
Petroperu operates a domestic network of four refineries with a joint capacity to process 94,500 barrels per day (bpd).
With almost all its refineries located along the Pacific shore in South America, Peru is a large consumer of Ecuadorian crude, as the Andean country is its closest oil source while Peruvian crude production keeps declining.
But Peru has also been looking for new crude sources in the Americas.
Petroperu's Conchan refinery in May made its first purchase of Sapinhoa crude, a grade produced offshore at Brazil's Santos basin. Another cargo arrived last month in the terminal of the 102,000-bpd La Pampilla refinery, operated by Spain's Repsol .
In separate deals, a tanker carrying 380,000 barrels of U.S. light sweet crude arrived in Conchan in early July and another one of the same size is scheduled for late July delivery, after Swiss-based trading firm Kolmar Group was awarded a crude tender by Petroperu.
Peru occasionally also buys Colombian crudes shipped from the Tumaco terminal in the Pacific or from storage tanks in Panama.
For its part, Repsol has always complemented Ecuador's Oriente and Trinidad's Galeota crudes with light grades mainly imported from Africa for the La Pampilla refinery, according to a Repsol source, who declined to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
The Suezmax tanker Copper Spirit is expected to discharge about 1 million barrels of Nigeria's Agbami light crude at La Pampilla next month, according to Reuters data. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston and Mitra Taj in Buenos Aires; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)