Oil prices rise on pipeline shutdown

Some have said this week’s 'perfect storm' of problems will raise questions about the UK’s energy security
Credit
Yui Mok  PA

Ineos, which operates the Forties pipeline system in the North Sea, said Wednesday it was reviewing a range of options to fix cracks in a system that carries about 40 percent of total regional production, or about 450,000 barrels per day.

In its closely watched monthly oil market report, the IEA said the amount of crude oil on the global market rose by 170,000 barrels a day in November to 97.8 million barrels a day, the highest in a year on the back of rising USA production, adding that output was nonetheless down 1.1 mb/d on a year ago when Russian Federation and Middle East OPEC producers pumped at record rates. The Forties pipeline, recently purchased from BP by Ineos, is one of the most important pipelines in the North Sea.

"At this stage it is still too early to say how long the fix will take to complete, but it is expected to be a matter of weeks rather than days", Ineos said, adding that a number of fix options were now being assessed and developed.

John Kilduff, founding partner for Again Capital, explained Thursday gains amid the confusion by pointing out that "At present you cant ignore the impact of the Forties pipeline outage; Its a significant amount of oil that the market is going to miss and is missing, and its nearly surprising its not generating more support". It's a shutdown of a major oil pipeline in the North Sea, which is expected to last for weeks. If the Forties pipeline is "out for a month, it should have a positive effect" on prices as 10 million barrels of supply could easily be lost to the market.

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The Forties halt forced Ineos Group Ltd., the operator of the pipeline, to declare force majeure, a contractual term that allows it to miss deliveries due to events beyond its control.

Beyond that supply disruption, the market was broadly supported by efforts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russian Federation to curb output in their bid to end a supply glut, traders and analysts said.

"Commercial oil stocks in the OECD fell further in the month of November and the difference to the latest five-year average has been reduced by around 200 million barrels since the beginning of this year", Barkindo said at an energy forum in China on Wednesday. Now the market is confused about which cargoes might be deferred or dropped from the December loadings schedule. South Korea and the refining hub in Rotterdam are the main export destinations for the Forties crude, apart from the Ineos 200,000-bpd Grangemouth refinery that has started to look for crude oil from other sources.

Traders are watching the spread, or difference, between Brent and WTI closely.

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