Oil Rises Above $114 On Tight North Sea Supply
Published Monday, 20 August 2012 12:29 | Written by Amwal Al Ghad
Britain's largest oilfield, Buzzard, which is the single biggest contributor to the Forties crude oil stream and usually sets the price of the Brent benchmark, will shut next month, suspending output until mid-October.
Production from key North Sea oilfields is due to fall by about 17 percent in September, helping push up prices for nearby crude. But the shortfall should be temporary and traders expect pressure to ease after the maintenance is completed.
Brent for October was up 66 cents at $114.37 a barrel by 0850 GMT after falling more than $2 on Friday on expectations the U.S. might release some of its reserves. U.S. light crude oil added 10 cents to $96.11.
"Tightness in the North Sea should ease after maintenance at the Buzzard field is completed after September," Morgan Stanley analyst Hussein Allidina said.
"Increased supply from the Forties stream, planned refinery maintenance in the Atlantic Basin and a potential return of Sudanese and South Sudanese supply portend a more comfortable fourth-quarter crude balance."
Brent has risen about a third in two months, boosted by supply concerns and a dispute between Iran and the West over the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme.
Rhetoric from Israeli politicians has increased this month suggesting Israel might attack Iran's nuclear facilities ahead of U.S. presidential elections in November.
Such an attack could bring about the closure of the Gulf of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world's oil exports flow.
Senior Israeli officials have said no final decision about whether to attack Iran has been taken and the military hierarchy is unhappy about any attack without full U.S. backing.
Global Risk Management analyst Michael Poulsen said Israeli talk of a pre-emptive attack on Iran was supporting oil.
"We expect the Israeli rhetoric to remain strong in the coming months to maintain pressure on its main ally in the upcoming U.S. presidential election," Poulsen said.
Oil demand has been sluggish this year because of the global economic slowdown, but with Europe and the U.S. heading towards winter, low gasoil inventories may provide fundamental support to crude, Deutsche Bank analysts said in a weekly note.
Key to the outlook for fuel demand are expectations for economic growth, particularly in the world's largest oil consumer, the United States.
Investors are looking to the minutes of the last Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) July 31-August 1 meeting this week, which should provide clues to the Federal Reserve's view on U.S. economic growth and the chances of further monetary easing.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will speak at a symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on August 31 and had been expected by some analysts to set the scene there for a third round of quantitative easing (QE3).
However, the chances of QE3 have receded, economists say, as U.S. economic data has improved, removing one possible support for oil and commodity prices.
Oil prices slipped last week after a source said the White House could tap the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to prevent high energy costs from undermining the success of sanctions against Iran.
But the idea was firmly rejected by the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the adviser to industrialized countries on energy policy, as well as Japan and South Korea.