Thu Jul 24, 2014 12:19am EDT
* South Korea's GS Caltex, Japan's Cosmo Oil buy one cargo each - sources
* US oil exports to benefit energy-deficit allies in Asia - analyst (Adds quotes, details)
By Florence Tan and Meeyoung Cho
SINGAPORE/SEOUL, July 24 (Reuters) - South Korea and Japan have purchased the first condensate, or ultra-light oil, from the United States since the easing of a 40-year-old ban on U.S. crude oil exports, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.
The U.S. has recently softened a total ban on crude oil exports in place since the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, allowing energy companies to export a variety of ultra-light oil if it has been minimally refined. Refined products, such as gasoline and diesel, are not restricted.
The relaxation of the ban coincides with a resurgence in domestic shale oil and gas production as the U.S. seeks to assure energy importers in Europe and Asia of alternative sources of supply. Energy hungry nations, grappling with disruption fears as geopolitical crises in Eastern Europe and the Middle East deepen, would welcome steady shipments of oil and gas from a stable exporter such as the U.S.
"It means very little in itself, but because of current events it takes on a more political or symbolic importance," said Alex Yap, a senior oil analyst at FGE.
"If the U.S. wants its allies to be less dependent on the likes of Russia and Iran, it has to show some willingness to step up as a supplier instead of keeping the bounty from shale production within its own market."
South Korean oil refiner GS Caltex has bought a condensate cargo to be loaded in late July, three industry sources with knowledge of the matter said. They declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The cargo was marketed by Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co Ltd, which had bought it from Enterprise Product Partners.
GS Caltex declined to comment.
South Korea's second-largest refiner with a capacity of 775,000 barrels per day (bpd) is equally owned by the No.2 U.S. oil company Chevron Corp and South Korea's GS Energy, a unit of GS Holdings.
Japanese refiner Cosmo Oil Co has also bought a cargo of U.S. condensate, an industry source familiar with the matter said earlier on Thursday.
The 300,000-barrel cargo will be loaded in August, and is set to arrive at Cosmo's 112,000 bpd Yokkaichi refinery in early October, the source said.
The cargo was priced at a few dollars a barrel discount to the similar Middle Eastern grades, the source added.