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Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Feb 24 (Reuters) Oil jumped more than $2 on Friday after reports of an explosion and shooting at the huge Abqaiq oil facility in Saudi Arabia, which triggered worries about supply from the world's top crude producer.

The Dubai-based Al Arabiya television station quoted witnesses as saying there was shooting in the area while a Saudi security source said the government had prevented suicide bombing attacks at Abqaiq.

''Security forces foiled an attempted suicide at the Abqaiq (facility) using at least two cars,'' the official said.

Most Saudi oil is exported from the Gulf via Abqaiq, the world's largest crude processing plant, which handles about two thirds of the country's output.

U.S crude prices hit a high of $62.60 a barrel, up $2.06. They later eased back to $62.23 at 1400 GMT (1930 IST).

London Brent was up $1.55 at $62.09 a barrel.

''It's not clear what damage there is, but Abqaiq is the world's most important oil facility,'' said Gary Ross, CEO at PIRA Energy consultancy in New York.

''This just emphasises fears over global oil supply security when we're already facing major ongoing risks in Nigeria, Iran and Iraq.'' Oil prices had risen a dollar earlier on Friday as fears of deeper disruptions to Nigerian exports overshadowed the comfort drawn from brimming fuel stockpiles in the United States.

Attacks on Nigeria's oil network have already forced Shell to cut output by 455,000 barrels a day, shutting in a fifth of the country's exports. Militants holding foreign oil workers hostage say they will continue attacks in the next few days.

But oil's upside may be limited by brimming U.S. fuel tanks.

Gasoline stocks rose to 225.6 million barrels, the highest level in seven years, according to weekly data. Crude stocks rose 1.1 million barrels to 326.7 million barrels.

''The market is being tugged by two forces -- data are pulling it down and political forces are pulling it up,'' said independent oil consultant Geoff Pyne.

Outages in Nigeria, the world's eighth largest crude exporter, have helped push London Brent crude close to parity versus U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures.

U.S. crude usually trades at a premium to Brent, but the London benchmark better reflects the Nigerian risk premium as it is used to price West African oil sales.

Aside from tension in Nigeria, traders said Iran's nuclear ambitions and the possible ramifications for the nation's oil production also remained a worry.

The board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meets on March 6 to discuss the next step in resolving Iran's nuclear row with the West.

Iraq, which has been struggling to get oil output back to pre-war levels, is suffering the worst sectarian violence since the fall of Saddam Hussein, compounding the geopolitical risks in the Middle East.

REUTERS SD PM1944

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