• search

Oil steady as BP seeks to keep Alaska oil flowing

Written by: Staff
|

SINGAPORE, Aug 9 (Reuters) Oil prices held steady just below record highs on Wednesday, taking some relief from efforts to keep nearly half of Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oilfield's output flowing.

London Brent crude which hit a new high of .65 a barrel before succumbing to profit-taking on Tuesday, was trading flat at .55 a barrel. U.S. light, sweet crude was up 3 cents at .34 a barrel, about SINGAPORE, Aug 9 (Reuters) Oil prices held steady just below record highs on Wednesday, taking some relief from efforts to keep nearly half of Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oilfield's output flowing.

London Brent crude which hit a new high of $78.65 a barrel before succumbing to profit-taking on Tuesday, was trading flat at $77.55 a barrel. U.S. light, sweet crude was up 3 cents at $76.34 a barrel, about $2 shy of its peak in July.

After soaring 3 percent on Monday following news that BP was shutting down Prudhoe Bay due to a corroded pipeline, prices eased on Tuesday amid hope that some output from the biggest oilfield in the United States could be maintained.

U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said BP may be able to keep up to half of Prudhoe Bay production online during work, helping offset fears that the loss of 8 percent of U.S. production could last for months, adding to outages in Nigeria and Iraq.

BP, which had shut in half of the field's production by Tuesday, said it was talking with regulators about ways to keep pumping from the western side of the field, which produces 185,000 barrels per day, while it replaces pipelines.

The U.S. government said Saudi Arabia and Mexico had pledged to help meet any supply shortfalls, but also warned that full production from Prudhoe Bay might not resume until January.

Given the regulatory scrutiny facing BP -- already being investigated for an Alaskan spill in March -- and the logistical challenges in buying new pipelines and installing them in the harsh north, some analysts still feared a prolonged outage.

''The politics around that decision (resuming western production) will be interesting. We think the plan gets nixed and 400,000 bpd are out through Q1,'' Jan Stuart, energy economist at UBS, said in a report.

Oil prices have soared 25 percent to new highs this year on a combination of feared outages stemming from Iran's determination to pursue a nuclear programme and the ongoing war between Israel and Hizbollah, plus the very real loss of some 700,000 bpd of Nigerian production and Iraq's erratic northern exports.

Israel was expected to decide on Wednesday whether to send troops deeper into Lebanon as a possible U.N. vote on a resolution that might end the month-long war may be delayed to Thursday as Beirut pushes for a withdrawal of Israeli troops.

Relatively healthy global crude oil inventories have provided a cushion for disruptions, but there are signs that missing supplies -- coupled with a cut-back in Saudi exports since the first quarter -- may be gradually eroding that surplus.

U.S. commercial stocks were expected to have fallen by 800,000 barrels last week, with gasoline stocks off 1.1 million barrels as demand appeared unperturbed by near-record-high pump prices, according to a Reuters poll.

Government inventory data was due out later on Wednesday.

Another anxiety for the market is the U.S. hurricane season, which continues until around November. Hurricanes last year temporarily knocked out a quarter of U.S. crude and fuel production and sent prices to what were then record highs.

REUTERS SBA DB1157 shy of its peak in July.

After soaring 3 percent on Monday following news that BP was shutting down Prudhoe Bay due to a corroded pipeline, prices eased on Tuesday amid hope that some output from the biggest oilfield in the United States could be maintained.

U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said BP may be able to keep up to half of Prudhoe Bay production online during work, helping offset fears that the loss of 8 percent of U.S. production could last for months, adding to outages in Nigeria and Iraq.

BP, which had shut in half of the field's production by Tuesday, said it was talking with regulators about ways to keep pumping from the western side of the field, which produces 185,000 barrels per day, while it replaces pipelines.

The U.S. government said Saudi Arabia and Mexico had pledged to help meet any supply shortfalls, but also warned that full production from Prudhoe Bay might not resume until January.

Given the regulatory scrutiny facing BP -- already being investigated for an Alaskan spill in March -- and the logistical challenges in buying new pipelines and installing them in the harsh north, some analysts still feared a prolonged outage.

''The politics around that decision (resuming western production) will be interesting. We think the plan gets nixed and 400,000 bpd are out through Q1,'' Jan Stuart, energy economist at UBS, said in a report.

Oil prices have soared 25 percent to new highs this year on a combination of feared outages stemming from Iran's determination to pursue a nuclear programme and the ongoing war between Israel and Hizbollah, plus the very real loss of some 700,000 bpd of Nigerian production and Iraq's erratic northern exports.

Israel was expected to decide on Wednesday whether to send troops deeper into Lebanon as a possible U.N. vote on a resolution that might end the month-long war may be delayed to Thursday as Beirut pushes for a withdrawal of Israeli troops.

Relatively healthy global crude oil inventories have provided a cushion for disruptions, but there are signs that missing supplies -- coupled with a cut-back in Saudi exports since the first quarter -- may be gradually eroding that surplus.

U.S. commercial stocks were expected to have fallen by 800,000 barrels last week, with gasoline stocks off 1.1 million barrels as demand appeared unperturbed by near-record-high pump prices, according to a Reuters poll.

Government inventory data was due out later on Wednesday.

Another anxiety for the market is the U.S. hurricane season, which continues until around November. Hurricanes last year temporarily knocked out a quarter of U.S. crude and fuel production and sent prices to what were then record highs.

REUTERS SBA DB1157

For Daily Alerts
Get Instant News Updates
Enable
x
Notification Settings X
Time Settings
Done
Clear Notification X
Do you want to clear all the notifications from your inbox?
Settings X
X