HOUSTON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - China’s Unipec expects to trade up to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) of U.S. crude oil by the end of the year, about triple the trading volume last year, the company’s president said on Wednesday at an energy industry event.
* Unipec, the trading arm of oil refiner Sinopec, currently is trading about 200,000 bpd of U.S. crude, said Chen Bo, president of the company, at Argus Americas Crude Summit
* The Americas could replace Africa by 2020 as Asia’s second largest oil supplier, behind the Middle East
* U.S. sweet crude prices are now considered competitive compared with West African and North Sea grades, he said
* WTI crude at Houston is expected to become Americas’ most important crude benchmark replacing WTI Cushing because it better reflects the global market balance and offers a more liquid market for export customers (Reporting by Marianna Parraga and Bryan Sims; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)