MARKET WATCHEnergy prices continue downward spiral

Oct. 21, 2005
Crude and gasoline futures prices tumbled to their lowest levels in months on Oct. 20.

Sam Fletcher
Senior Writer

HOUSTON, Oct. 21 -- Crude and gasoline futures prices tumbled to their lowest levels in months on Oct. 20, with traders apparently comfortable about supplies even as Hurricane Wilma was poised to enter the Gulf of Mexico.

The eye of the Category 4 storm was over Cozumel, Mexico, early Oct. 21 and was expected to hit Florida by Oct. 24. It would be the seventh hurricane to hit that state in 14 months.

The Minerals Management Service reported 5 drilling rigs and 210 production platforms remained without crews in the Gulf of Mexico as of Oct. 20. That was 1 less platform and 1 more rig than the previous day (OGJ Online, Oct. 20, 2005). Shut-in production in the gulf totaled 967,734 b/d of crude and 5.2 bcfd of natural gas. Total gulf production lost since Aug. 26 now totals 63.6 million bbl of crude and 321.2 bcf of gas.

The Louisiana Office of Conservation said production of 874.7 MMcfd of natural gas has been restored onshore or in state waters in 38 parishes as of Oct. 20. That amounts to 39.1% of the prehurricane production from that area. However, 47.2% of the regional wells remain shut in.

ANR Pipeline Co. said extensive damage from Hurricane Rita would keep its liquid-handling facilities at Grand Chenier, La., out of service for an indeterminate time until repaired. Meanwhile, the pipeline firm, MMS, local refineries, and a local barging company have worked with a third party on temporary arrangements that allow ANR to accommodate production with associated liquids in an effort to bring natural gas production onto the interstate grid as soon as possible.

Energy prices
On Oct. 20, the November contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes hit a 3-month low of $59.85/bbl in intraday trading before finishing at $61.03/bbl, down $1.38 for the day on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The December contract lost $1.49 to $60.02/bbl. On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., was down by $1.37 to $61.04/bbl. Gasoline for November delivery fell to $1.60/gal in intraday trade, the lowest level for a near-month contract since July 1, before finishing at $1.61/gal, down by 6.32¢ for the day. Heating oil for the same month lost 4.35¢ to $1.87/gal. The November natural gas contract fell by 57.2¢ to $12.98/MMbtu.

In London, the December contract for North Sea Brent crude dropped 69¢ to $57.91/bbl on the International Petroleum Exchange. Gas oil for November lost $17 to $567/tonne.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of 11 benchmark crudes declined by 79¢ to $52.85/bbl on Oct. 20.

Contact Sam Fletcher at [email protected].