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HOUSTON, March 2 (Reuters) - The United States imported a 272,000-barrel cargo of Bolivian condensate bought by trading firm Trafigura last week after more favorable crude spreads prompted larger purchases of foreign oil last month, according to traders and ThomsonReuters data.
Refining and trading companies in the United States turned to crude and condensate imports in February to find cheap oil after the arbitrage opened as a result of an inversion in the spread between benchmark U.S. crude oil prices and Brent.
Purchases of African crudes increased to 11.66 million barrels in February, the highest volume since October including Nigerian condensate, according to the same data. Most crudes arriving were light and sweet, competing with U.S. grades.
The rare Bolivian condensate cargo arrived in South Louisiana Port on Feb. 24. The Andean country, which exports a cargo of reconstituted crude at least monthly, sold a similar condensate cargo to the United States in 2010 that was discharged at Freeport, Texas.
A trader related to condensate deals said more imports will be difficult to see in March as spreads have changed in recent weeks, making purchases more expensive.
A unit in Bolivia of French oil company Total discovered gas and condensate in the South American country in 2011 and the commerciality of a project involving Aquio and Ipati blocks was later announced.
Other firms participating in Bolivia's condensate market include BG Group and Gazprom.
Private companies producing gas and condensate in Bolivia sell their output to state-run oil firm YPFB.
Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Alan Crosby