Oil prices reach record highs on supply fears

13 August 2004
Oil prices eased on 11 August after Saudi Arabia announced it was ready to increase production by 1.3 million barrels a day (b/d) to take the heat out of the soaring market.The announcement followed a week of rises that peaked on 10 August when crude broke through the $45-a-barrel barrier in New York amid continuing violence in Iraq and doubts about the future of Russia's Yukos. Brent was trading at $41.57 a barrel on 11 August, slightly down from $41.97 a week earlier.

Prices in New York climbed to a 21-year high of $45.04 on 10 August, up $4 in a week, after saboteurs blew up the main pipeline from Iraq's southern oil fields to the offshore terminals, cutting Iraq's oil exports by almost 50 per cent. The International Energy Agency added to the pressure, revising upwards its global demand figure for 2004 to 27 million b/d and warning that spare capacity is down to below 1 per cent of the level of demand.

Another major worry is the failing oil giant Yukos. On 10 August, Russia's Federal Energy Agency head Sergei Oganesyan said Yukos' $3,400 million tax dispute may result in a halt to crude shipments from the country's largest oil exporter.

The tightness of the market was highlighted by the latest weekly data released by the US' Energy Information Administration on 11 August. Despite an increase in oil imports to 9.5 million b/d and a drop in refinery capacity rates, US crude inventories fell by 4 million barrels to 294.3 million.

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