Market watch: Lack of refinery damage curbs oil futures

Oil futures prices pulled back Tuesday with indications that damage to a Conoco Inc. refinery in northern England may not be as bad as first feared. The market also reacted in anticipation of a bearish report by the American Petroleum Institute after the close of trade, which showed US crude stocks increased by 7.3 million bbl last week.


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Apr. 18 -- Oil futures prices pulled back Tuesday with indications that damage to a Conoco Inc. refinery in northern England may not be as bad as first feared.

An initial cursory examination indicated that most of the fire damage to Conoco's 230,000-b/d Humber refinery apparently was limited to the small saturate gas unit where an explosion occurred Monday. There appeared to be little damage to the refinery's crude processing, gasoline production, and coking units, Conoco officials said.

The May contract for benchmark US sweet, light crudes lost 55¢ to $28.24/bbl on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while the June contract declined 37¢ to $28.82/bbl, partly in anticipation of a bearish report by the American Petroleum Institute after the close of trade, which showed US crude stocks increased by 7.3 million bbl last week.

The May and June oil contracts continued to drop in after-hours electronic trading on the NYMEX to $27.74/bbl and $28.28/bbl, respectively.

Home heating oil for May delivery pulled back 1.75¢ to 80.12¢/gal, while natural gas for the same month plunged 26.8¢ to $5.25/Mcf.

But the May contract for unleaded gasoline inched up 0.71¢ to $1.0502/gal prior to API's report of a 58,000-bbl decline in gasoline stocks last week. Markets will likely continue to support gasoline prices near current levels as increased demand soaks up all available supply, analysts said.

In London, the June contract for North Sea Brent crude closed at $27.63/bbl, up 26¢ for the day, after trading as high as $28.25/bbl Tuesday morning on the International Petroleum Exchange. Those earlier gains began to be erased in the afternoon when the first inspection teams entered the Conoco refinery after the fire had burned itself out.

The May natural gas contract gained 19¢ to the equivalent of $3.46/Mcf Tuesday on the IPE. That market was closed both Friday and Monday for the Easter holiday in the UK.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of seven crudes inched up 3¢ to $25.55/bbl Tuesday.

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