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More N.Sea crude benchmark hit as BP shuts platform

By Ikuko Kurahone

LONDON (Reuters) - British oil major BP said on Monday it had shut the Valhall platform in the North Sea last week, while traders said the shutdown led to loading delays of one of the four crude oil streams used for the global price benchmark.

The delays came while French major Total has closed the Elgin platform since last week because of a gas leak, which has affected volumes in another stream of the four.

A BP spokesman said the Valhall platform in the Norwegian North Sea was shut for unplanned maintenance at the compressor. There was no leak from the platform, he added.

"Valhall production was shut in last week to undertake some maintenance work to the compressor unit. The results of testing this week will determine when a re-start is likely," the spokesman said in a statement.

New-York listed Hess is the majority owner in the field with a 64 percent share, while operator BP holds the remaining 36 percent.

The BP spokesman said the Valhall field normally produces about 40,000 barrels of crude oil per day but declined to specify the shut-in volume.

The Valhall oilfield feeds into the Ekofisk stream. It is one of the BFOE streams, or Brent, Forties, Oseberg and Ekofisk, which are used as the benchmark to price about two thirds of global crude oil.

Traders said seven cargoes of Ekofisk crude to be loaded in April have been delayed by five days due to the platform shutdown. Two of them were now expected to be loaded in May.

This was not confirmed by BP.

Loadings of another key stream, Forties, have been reduced by up to 120,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the first half of April, traders said on Friday.

French major Total has been battling with leaking gas from the Elgin platform for about a week. The platform, which has been shut since the leak last week, normally produces about 60,000 bpd of oil feeding into the Forties stream.

Forties is pumped by the BP-operated Forties Pipeline System.

ICE Brent crude futures jumped into a positive territory, reversing the losses earlier in the day. By 1616 GMT, Brent futures were trading $1.84 up at $124.72 a barrel, outpacing the $1.62 rise in U.S. crude futures.

(Reporting by Ikuko Kurahone; Editing by Jane Baird)

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