MARKET WATCHRefinery mishaps boost energy prices

Energy prices rebounded Feb. 13, with crude again approaching the $60/bbl barrier following disruptions at two US refineries and a report from Paris-based International Energy Agency hiking its estimate of world demand for oil and reducing its outlook for supplies.

Sam Fletcher
Senior Writer

HOUSTON, Feb. 14 -- Energy prices rebounded Feb. 13, with crude again approaching the $60/bbl barrier following disruptions at two US refineries and a report from Paris-based International Energy Agency hiking its estimate of world demand for oil and reducing its outlook for supplies.

IEA estimated 2006 demand increased to 84.5 million b/d from 84.4 million b/d, while 2007 demand is now figured at 86 million b/d, up from a prior estimate of 85.8 million b/d, primarily because of upward revisions of China's demand for petroleum. EIA's estimate of crude production from sources outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was reduced to 50.5 million b/d (OGJ Online, Feb. 13, 2007).

A Feb. 12 power failure cut off steam to Sunoco Inc.'s 175,000 b/d Marcus Hook refinery in Pennsylvania. The facility shut down temporarily but was in the process of restarting the afternoon of Feb. 13. Valero Energy Corp. also reported a small fire but no injuries at its 180,000 b/d Delaware City, Del., refinery.

US inventories
The US Energy Information Administration said Feb. 14 that commercial inventories of US crude continued to decline during the week ended Feb. 9, down by 600,000 bbl to 323.9 million bbl. That followed a loss of 400,000 bbl the prior week. Gasoline stocks fell by 2 million bbl to 225.2 million bbl in the most recent period. Distillate fuel inventories dropped 3 million bbl to 133.3 million bbl. Most of that decrease was in heating oil as a result of cold weather, but diesel stocks also declined slightly.

Imports of crude into the US increased by 37,000 b/d to 9.6 million b/d during the same week. The input of crude into US refineries, however, dipped by 1,000 b/d to 14.8 million b/d, with units operating at 86.6% of capacity. Gasoline production declined to 8.9 million b/d, while distillate production increased to 4.1 million b/d.

Energy prices
The March contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes rebounded by $1.25 to close at $59.06/bbl after trading as high as $59.60/bbl Feb. 13 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The April contract regained $1.22 to $59.85/bbl. On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., was up by $1.24 to $59.06/bbl. The March contract for reformulated blend stock for oxygenate blending (RBOB) reclaimed 5.64¢ to $1.61/gal on NYMEX. Heating oil for the same month was up 4.78¢ to $1.69/gal.

The March natural gas contract increased by 14.1¢ to $7.37/MMbtu on NYMEX. On the US spot market, gas at Henry Hub, La., escalated by 29.5¢ to $8.07/MMbtu.

In London, the March IPE contract for North Sea Brent crude increased 43¢ to $57.03/bbl. Gas oil for the same month gained $4.75 to $516.75/tonne.

However, the average price for OPEC's basket of 11 benchmark crudes dropped 68¢ to $53.26/bbl on Feb. 13.

Contact Sam Fletcher at samf@ogjonline.com.

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