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MARKET WATCH
Gasoline futures price rallies

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Apr. 22 -- Crude oil prices rose on the New York Mercantile Exchange Apr. 21 on the support of strengthening gasoline prices amid news reports of a problem at the ConocoPhillips refinery in Lake Charles, La.

Traders said concerns about US refining capacity drove the higher gasoline futures prices after Reuters reported that the 255,000 b/d ConocoPhillips refinery had equipment problems upon trying to come out of maintenance.

A ConocoPhillips spokeswoman told OGJ on Apr. 22 that it was against her company's policy to "discuss market rumors or day-to-day operations."

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia Oil Minister Ali Naimi said that the kingdom plans to invest $50 billion in energy development during the next 5 years, which would be double the amount invested during the last 5 years, the Wall Street Journal reported Apr. 22.

The planned investment is expected to boost Saudi Arabia's production capacity to 12.5 million b/d by 2009, Naimi said, adding that he is studying longer-terms plans for capacity increases to 15 million b/d.

Crown Prince Abdullah is scheduled to meet with US President George W. Bush on Apr. 25 in Texas. Bush has said he wants to discuss crude prices and ask about the volume of Saudi Arabia's existing spare production capacity.

Energy prices
The new June contract for benchmark US light, sweet crude increased by 17¢ to $54.20/bbl Apr. 21 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The July contract rose by 42¢ to $55.55/bbl.

On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., lost 24¢ to $52.21/gal. Gasoline for May delivery surged by 3.87¢ to $1.62/gal on NYMEX. Heating oil for the same month rose by 2.53¢ to $1.53/gal.

The May natural gas contract slipped by 0.025¢ to $7.032/MMbtu on NYMEX. Enerfax Daily analysts said the gas futures market "seems to be caught between bearish fundamentals and skittishness in the crude oil market."

In London, the June contract for North Sea Brent crude rose 23¢ to $54.01/bbl on the International Petroleum Exchange.


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