Market watch: US energy futures rise with refinery problems

Refinery problems, including an explosion and fire that shut down virtually all of Conoco Inc.'s Humber plant in northern England, triggered a jump in energy futures prices Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Apr 17th, 2001


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Apr. 17 -- Refinery problems, including an explosion and fire that shut down virtually all of Conoco Inc.'s Humber plant in northern England, triggered a jump in energy futures prices Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Conoco officials expect to begin Tuesday their assessment of damage to that refinery, one of Europe's largest with a throughput capacity of 230,000 b/d (OGJ Online, Apr. 16, 2001). The refinery, located on a 480-acre site on the Humber River near the ports of Immingham and Grimsby, is the world's largest producer of needle coke, used in manufacture of electrodes for electric arc steel furnaces.

Cause of the explosion that shook the area about 2:20 p.m. British Standard Time on Monday has not yet been determined. However, Conoco officials said the refinery was only weeks away from its scheduled seasonal turnaround and had stockpiled products in preparation. As a result, they anticipate no major disruptions of supplies to customers.

Conoco employs about 700 people at the refinery along with several hundred contract workers. But because of the Easter holiday, only about 200 were at work at the time of the explosion.

Only two people�one employee and a nearby resident�received minor injuries in the mishap, officials said.

The delayed restart of a Pennsylvania refinery and unscheduled repairs at an ExxonMobil Corp. refinery in Texas also added to market concerns over US gasoline inventories near the start of the peak summer driving season.

As a result, the May contract for unleaded gasoline jumped 2� to $1.0431/gal on the NYMEX. Home heating oil for the same month rose 3.82� to 81.87�/gal.

That movement advanced the May contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes by 54� to $28.79/bbl, while the June contract gained 60� to $29.19/bbl. Both contracts continued to rise in after-hours electronic trading to $28.86/bbl and $29.28/bbl, respectively.

The May natural gas contract also increased by 13.5� to $5.52/Mcf on the NYMEX.

However, the average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of seven crudes dipped 29� Monday to $25.52/bbl.

The International Petroleum Exchange in London resumed trading Tuesday, after being closed Friday and Monday for the Easter holidays.

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