An employee holds a sample of crude oil on his glove. (Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)

Oil Stalls Below $60 With Resumption of Libya Pipeline in Sight

(Bloomberg) -- Crude slipped for the first time in more than a week following reports that a damaged Libyan pipeline should be repaired next week.

Futures fell 0.6 percent in New York on Wednesday, with trading volumes about 50 percent below the 100-day average. The Waha Oil Co. pipeline that carries crude to Libya’s largest terminal will need about a week for repairs following an explosion on Tuesday, people familiar with the situation said. Meanwhile, an American Petroleum Institute report which was said to show U.S. crude stockpiles falling by 5.96 million barrels last week didn’t faze the market.

Some traders are “wrapping up their books” at the end of the year, according to Ashley Petersen, lead oil analyst at Stratas Advisors in New York. At the same time, the market is “probably reassured now” that it won’t take long to fix the Libya conduit, she said.

Oil Stalls Below $60 With Resumption of Libya Pipeline in Sight

West Texas Intermediate for February delivery traded at $59.55 a barrel at 4:47 p.m. after settling at $59.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices rose above $60 a barrel for the first time since June 2015 in intraday trading Tuesday. 

Brent for February settlement dropped 58 cents to end the session at $66.44 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The global benchmark crude traded at a premium of $6.80 to WTI.

Prices have received a boost this month as supply cuts from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies will run through the end of next year. A pipeline outage in the North Sea also contributed while additions to the U.S. oil rig count have stalled even with oil prices in the upper-$50s.

“The Forties pipeline is coming closer to being back online, so that’s capping some of the price optimism that you might have otherwise seen from the Libya supply outage,” Michael Bokoff, an investment analyst at Manulife Asset Management in Boston, said by telephone.

The API report was also said to find that gasoline inventories rose by 3.13 million barrels last week and supplies at the key Cushing, Oklahoma, pipeline hub declined by 1.27 million barrels, the people said. Distillates rose by 2.76 million barrels.

U.S. crude inventories probably fell by 3.75 million barrels last week, according the median estimate of analysts in a Bloomberg survey before the release of Energy Information Administration data Thursday. Stockpiles at the key pipeline hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, probably slid 590,000 barrels last week, according to a forecast compiled by Bloomberg.

“Inventories are trending directionally in a favorable way,” Bokoff said. “Demand has been very strong for both crude and products.”

Oil-market news:

  • A new U.K. North Sea oil field came online last week, offering one of the country’s largest independent operators some relief from a pipeline halt that forced a significant portion of the region’s output to stop. The startup of Premier Oil Plc’s Catcher field caps the biggest year for new offshore oil and gas projects in the country for about a decade.
  • Shipments of fuel oil to Singapore from the West of Suez will rise to more than 4 million tons this month for the first time since August, helping to keep the market well-supplied in the near term, according to Energy Aspects Ltd.

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