MARKET WATCH: NYMEX March crude oil rebounds to top $100/bbl

Crude oil futures prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange topped $100/bbl on Feb. 12 after a weekly US government inventory report showed a reduction in oil volumes stored in Oklahoma, and analysts attributed the draw to the recent opening of a pipeline.

Stockpiles at Cushing fell to a 3-month low as of Feb. 7, the US Energy Information Administration said in a report showing a 2.7-million bbl draw at the hub to 37.6 million bbl. Analysts said that weekly decline marked the largest drop since July 2013 (OGJ Online, Feb. 12, 2014).

TransCanada Corp. in January started operating a pipeline that transports crude oil from Cushing to the Gulf of Mexico coast (OGJ Online, Jan. 22, 2014). Analysts said oil storage levels at Cushing have kept benchmark US light sweet oil prices below Brent oil prices for years.

NYMEX light sweet crude closed Jan. 12 at a discount of $8.42/bbl to Brent, and the gap has narrowed from $15/bbl in early January.

Brent crude oil prices rose modestly on Feb. 12 after China reported record crude oil imports. Barclays analyst Sijin Cheng said new refining capacity drove China’s oil imports.

“Crude imports broke higher to a new record of 6.65 million b/d in January, up 5% month on month and 12% year on year,” Cheng said. “Aside from seasonal stockpiling ahead of the Chinese New Year, the January startup of two new refineries in Sichuan and Fujian likely kept imports high. An imminent startup of a new strategic petroleum reserve site in Huangdao, designed to hold 18.9 million bbl, may have been a factor as well.”

Regarding the US natural gas inventory, the EIA estimated working gas in underground storage was 1.686 tcf as of Feb. 7.

That represented a net decline of 237 bcf from the previous week. Stocks were 863 bcf less than last year at this time and 631 bcf below the 5-year average of 2.317 tcf, EIA said in its weekly gas storage report on Feb. 13.

Energy prices

Light, sweet crude for March delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange climbed 43¢ to close at $100.37/bbl on Feb. 13. The contract briefly reached a high of $101.38/bbl before closing lower for the day. The April contract closed at $99.92/bbl, up 48¢.

Heating oil for March delivery declined 1.56¢ to a rounded $3.01/gal. Reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenate blending for March delivery climbed 1.05¢ to a rounded $2.76/gal, which was reformulated gasoline’s highest price since Dec. 31.

The March natural gas contract on NYMEX dropped less than a penny to remain at a rounded $4.82/MMbtu. On the US spot market, the gas price at Henry Hub dove by $1.35 to a rounded $6.27/MMbtu.

In London, the March ICE contract for Brent crude delivery increased 11¢, closing at $108.79/bbl. The April ICE contract for Brent was up 17¢ to $108.35/bbl.

The ICE gas oil contract for February held steady at $921.50/tonne, and the March contract also head steady at $919.50/tonne.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reported its basket of 12 benchmark crudes was $105.46/bbl on Feb. 12, up 16¢.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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