MARKET WATCH: Oil futures climb on Texas oil spill, Ukraine concerns

Oil prices climbed on the New York market Mar. 24, which analysts attributed to concerns about a temporary closure of the Houston Ship Channel and worries about tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

The 53-mile ship channel linking Gulf Coast refineries and petrochemical plants with the Gulf of Mexico remained closed to ship traffic Mar. 24. A barge and bulk carrier collided near Texas City, Tex., on Mar. 22, resulting in a spill of an estimated 4,000 bbl of bunker fuel into Galveston Bay (OGJ Online, Mar. 24, 2014).

The US Coast Guard said more than 100 ships waited Mar. 24 to enter the ship channel.

A 585-ft bulk carrier, Summer Wind, hit a barge carrying nearly 22,000 bbl of oil, towed by the Miss Susan tugboat. The accident is under investigation by the US Coast Guard.

Analysts said uncertainty of when the channel would reopen combined with tensions about Russia and Ukraine.

The Wall Street Journal reported White House officials indicate President Barack Obama will press US allies to adopt more sweeping sanctions and suspend Russia from the Group of Eight.

In other international news, a China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index fell to an 8-month low of 48.1, prompting analysts to comment that the index indicated declining Chinese oil demand.

Energy prices

The New York Mercantile Exchange May crude oil contract gained 14¢ on Mar. 24, closing at $99.60/bbl, while the June contract climbed 18¢ to settle at $98.83/bbl.

The April natural gas contract was down 3.7¢ to a rounded $4.28/MMbtu. On the US spot market, the gas price at Henry Hub settled at a rounded $4.28/MMbtu, down 2.8¢.

Heating oil for April delivery was down 0.85¢ to a rounded $2.91/gal. Reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenate blending for April delivery declined 1.7¢ to a rounded $2.89/gal.

In London, the May ICE contract for Brent crude delivery dropped 11¢, closing at $106.81/bbl. The June contract fell by 5¢ to $106.61/bbl. The ICE gas oil contract for April declined $5.25 to $895.25/tonne.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reported its basket of 12 benchmark crudes was $103.13/bbl on Mar. 24, dropping 17¢.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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