Crude gains $1/bbl on heightened Iran tensions, Nigeria worries

12 January 2012 11:15  [Source: ICIS news]

SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Crude futures rose by more than $1/bbl on Thursday, buoyed by supply worries amid strikes in Nigeria and increased tensions between Iran and the west after the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist.

At 10:19 GMT, February Brent crude on London’s ICE futures exchange was trading at $113.37/bbl (€89.56/bbl), up $1.13/bbl from the previous close. Earlier, the North Sea benchmark rose to a session high of $113.62/bbl, up by $1.38/bbl.

February NYMEX light sweet crude futures (WTI) were trading at $101.78/bbl, up 91 cents/bbl on the previous close. Earlier, the US benchmark rose to a session high of $101.94/bbl, up by $1.07/bbl from the previous close.

Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was killed in a car bomb attack in Tehran on Wednesday. Iran has blamed the death on Israeli and US agents, but both nations have denied any involvement. The death comes after it recently emerged that Iran had started to enrich uranium at its nuclear facilities.

Western nations have tightened sanctions against Iran amid concerns that Tehran’s nuclear programme involves the development of nuclear weapons. Iran claims that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.

Following pressure from the US, Japan announced on Thursday that it will reduce its imports of Iranian oil, which presently account for around 10% of Japan’s total oil imports. The EU has also already agreed in principle to ban oil imports from Iran. However, some member nations – such as Greece and Italy, which are the largest importers of Iranian oil in Europe – are seeking exemptions to any ban. The EU will hold a meeting to discuss the ban on 23 January.

Iran has threatened to halt oil shipments through the strategically important Strait of Hormuz if sanctions are imposed on its oil exports. Shipments of oil from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iraq and Iran all pass through the strait.

Iran is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, with an output of around 3.55m bbl/day. In addition, the country is also the third-largest oil exporter, according to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Prices were also bolstered by concerns over Nigerian supplies, with the main oil workers’ union announcing that it would take strike action to shut down Nigerian oil output unless the government reversed its removal of a fuel subsidy that has effectively doubled fuel prices.

Nigeria, which is Africa’s largest oil producer and exporter, has been rocked by nationwide strikes since 9 January amid public anger over the removal of the subsidy. Nigeria produced around 2.1m bbl/day of crude in November, according to IEA data.

($1 = €0.79)

For more on pricing intelligence visit ICIS pricing

By: James Dennis
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