* Traders prep rare East Coast gasoline exports
* Cargoes already sailing with exported distillates
* Exports underscore record East Coast gasoline stocks
* Graphic: U.S. gasoline exports tmsnrt.rs/2lvz76n
* Graphic: U.S. East Coast gasoline stocks tmsnrt.rs/2lyw0Lx
By Libby George, Ron Bousso and Jarrett Renshaw
LONDON/NEW YORK, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Traders are preparing to export cargoes of coveted gasoline from the U.S. East Coast after months of heavy importing and local production swamped the region.
At least two cargoes of gasoline are lined up to sail to West Africa, according to three market sources, with others eyeing their own shipments.
The United States consumed more than 9 million barrels per day of gasoline in 2016, accounting for nearly 10 percent of global oil demand. The East Coast accounts for over a third of the national consumption.
The exports underscore the record stocks of motor fuel on the East Coast, which were overshadowed by an unexpected draw down across the nation as a whole.
Oil trader Noble sold the cargoes of Nigerian-grade gasoline, one to Mocoh and the other to Glencore, the sources said. The cargoes will load in the coming days for West Africa, though ship brokers said the vessels had not yet been arranged.
“We have quite high production, and record high stocks in PADD1,” Robert Campbell, head of oil products research with Energy Aspects in New York said of the east coast region.
He added that because gasoline in New York Harbor is, unusually, cheaper than the U.S. Gulf refining centre, “if you’re going to lift from the United States, you’re going to lift from New York Harbor.”
The cargoes will add to U.S. gasoline exports that hit a record in November, the most recent month of data available, as American-made fuel sailed for Latin America, West Africa and even Asia. The Hafina Andromeda recently carried clean products from the U.S. Gulf to West Africa, while the Grace Victoria has been fixed to load gasoline for Asia.
The unusual cargo movements out of the U.S. East Coast are not limited to gasoline.
Other cargoes of distillates also set out for Europe in recent weeks, including aboard the STI Wembley, the Energy Protector and the Torm Thunder.
The 110,000 tanker SKS Dee, which trader Trafigura chartered to sail to New York Harbor from India’s Jamnagar refinery, has also been waiting for an outlet since Jan. 24, according to Reuters ship tracking, a further sign of the region’s limited import needs.
Distillate exports from the region are not unprecedented. But Europe’s refineries rely on drivers in West Africa and the U.S. East Coast to consume their gasoline.
The East Coast exports for now are of limited threat to global refining margins, as refinery maintenance eases oversupply fears. Other sources said the moves could also be driven by efforts to clear out winter-grade gasoline. But the development casts a shadow on the ability of U.S. consumers to gobble up fuel.
“Demand is an implied figure and dependant on the export (figure) they use,” one trader said of U.S. data. “If exports are higher than they think, then demand is lower than published.”
Additional reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York; Editing by Susan Fenton