By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, May 2 -- The price of crude oil reached above $73/bbl May 1 while gasoline futures prices soared on news of a fire at a Sicily, Italy, refinery. Analysts said the fire triggered a rally across energy markets.
The fire started in a pipeline Apr. 30, shutting down ERG Group's 225,000 b/cd Raffinerie Mediterrranee North refinery. ERG issued a news release saying the fire was contained in the place where it broke out until extinguished. The refinery was shut down as a precaution, ERG said.
ERG said it is investigating what happened and analyzing the pipe involved to determine how long it will take to restart refinery operations. "This will be communicated in the coming days," ERG said May 1.
The US Energy Information Administration reported Italian gasoline imports averaged 60,000 b/d in January and February. In recent weeks, the US has imported more than 1 million b/d of gasoline.
Traders said they are worried about rising US reliance on imported gasoline and limited US refining capacity. Another concern remains logistical problems as US refiners and marketers replace methyl tertiary butyl ether with ethanol in reformulated gasoline.
The June contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes rose $1.82 to close at $73.70/bbl May 1 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The July contract gained $1.72 to $75.22/bbl.
On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., climbed $1.82 to $73.71/bbl. Heating oil for May delivery increased by 4.59¢ to $2.058/gal May 1 on NYMEX. Gasoline for the same month soared 5.74¢ to $2.1466/gal.
The June natural gas contract rose 14¢ to $6.695/MMbtu on NYMEX.
In London, the May IPE contract for North Sea Brent crude gained $1.87 to $73.89/bbl May 1. Gas oil for May climbed $5.75 to $633.50/tonne.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' daily basket price stood at $66.22/bbl on May 1. OPEC's Vienna office was closed Apr. 28.