MARKET WATCH
Refinery fire sparks rebound in energy prices

By OGJ editors

HOUSTON, Mar. 28 -- Energy prices rebounded Mar. 24, following an explosion and fire on Mar. 23 that damaged an isomerization unit at BP PLC's refinery at Texas City, Tex., killing 14 people and injuring more than 100.

The refinery remained in operation despite damage to the unit (OGJ Online, Mar. 24, 2005).

Gasoline for April delivery hit an all-time high of $1.608/gal in overnight electronic trading before settling at $1.5992/gal, up by 2.43¢ Mar. 24 after losing a total 3.37¢/gal in the previous two sessions on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil for the same month increased by 1.48¢ to $1.55/gal.

The May contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes regained $1.03 to $54.84/bbl on NYMEX as traders scrambled to cover short, or previously sold, positions ahead of the long Easter holiday weekend. The June contract recovered 91¢ to $55.65/bbl. On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., was up by 74¢ to $51.10/bbl.

However, the April natural gas contract lost 7.6¢ to $7.06/MMbtu on NYMEX, dropping for the third straight day ahead of the long Eastern weekend on a bearish weekly storage report by the Energy Information Administration and forecasts of milder weather, said analysts at Enerfax Daily. EIA reported 89 bcf of natural gas withdrawn from US underground storage in the week ended Mar. 18 (OGJ Online, Mar. 24, 2005).

In London, the May contract for North Sea Brent crude gained 89¢ to $53.93/bbl on the International Petroleum Exchange.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of seven benchmark crudes increased by $1.03 to $50.12/bbl on Mar. 24.

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