Market recovers from Katrina

16 September 2005
Oil prices slipped back in the first week of September following the spike caused by Hurricane Katrina, as other nations rallied round to offer product supplies and some refineries in the Gulf of Mexico came back on stream. However, OPEC still seems set to raise the production ceiling again at its forthcoming meeting. Spot Brent was trading at $63.37 a barrel on 7 September, compared with $66.97 a week earlier.

In addition to the crude stocks released to refiners from the US' Strategic Petroleum Reserve - of limited use since the main damage caused by the hurricane was to refineries - Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) ordered the supply of 60 million barrels a day (b/d) out of emergency refined product stocks, a level due to be reviewed on 15 September. The White House urged refineries to postpone any scheduled maintenance and to run their facilities at full capacity over the coming weeks.

Prices eased as Gulf of Mexico refineries and pipelines gradually returned to action in early September and dire predictions that many facilities would be offline for months were moderated. By 5 September, crude production from the area was running at about 70 per cent of normal capacity. Saudi Arabia signalled willingness to help plug any crude shortfall by widening the discount at which oil is sold to Europe and the US to its highest level in six months.

A consensus appears to be forming among OPEC members in general that the production ceiling will be increased when the group meets on 19 September, with the debate over the size of the increase - probably 500,000 b/d or 1 million b/d. Even hawkish Tehran seems reconciled to the rise. 'OPEC members will most probably raise the organisation's oil production ceiling in a bid to stabilise oil markets,' said Iran's OPEC delegate Hossein Kazempour Ardebili in early September.

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