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LONDON, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Refinery problems in the Americas are drawing European gasoline cargoes across the Atlantic, providing timely support to refining margins that had been expected to fall at the end of the maintenance season.
This could give the region's oil majors such as BP, Total and Royal Dutch Shell an extension to what was a bumper third quarter for refining profits.
Noble, Vitol and Glencore are redirecting already booked cargoes into Venezuela, traders said, to meet demand for 2.4 million barrels of refined products caused by local refinery outages.
Distillates that were set to sail to Europe from the United States - a key source in recent years - are also now going south. Traders who had expected roughly 800,000 tonnes of U.S.-Europe arbitrage flow in November are revising the figure down to around 250,000-300,000 tonnes.
"It's keeping freight tight, too, and the transatlantic arbitrage shut," a trader said. "It will be dry for a bit longer this way."
The tenders from Venezuela add to already strong demand from Ecuador, Brazil and Peru, as well as for stock building on the U.S. Atlantic coast ahead of winter.
At least one cargo from Saudi Arabia's 400,000 barrel per day Jubail refinery is en route to Ecuador on the Falcon Express, according to ship tracking data, and traders said it could buy more. The long journey around the southern tip of South America, along with a string of other bookings from the U.S. Gulf, underscores Ecuador's thirst for diesel while its own refineries undergo maintenance.
The pull is supporting margins in Europe following an already exceptional third-quarter performance that enabled an unseasonal increase in crude runs.
Margins are holding at $6.46 a barrel on average for November, just 40 cents lower than September and nearly $2 a barrel above November last year, according to Reuters data.
Analysts had expected the strength to quickly fall away in November with the end of the maintenance season and rising imports from the Middle East and Asia.
"While the ramp-up of additional distillation capacity in the Middle East could take until mid-2015 and seasonal demand developments for Q4 being as they are, Christmas might come early for European refiners," consultants JBC Energy said in a note. (Additional reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by Michael Urquhart)