SINGAPORE, (AP) – Oil prices inched down Tuesday in Asia, extending an overnight decline that came after the shutdown of a huge oil processing unit at a U.S. refinery raised concern of lower demand for crude.
Light, sweet crude for August delivery fell 3 cents to $72.10 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, mid-afternoon in Singapore. The contract fell 62 cents to settle at $72.19 a barrel Monday, after dipping as low as $71.81 a barrel.
News that BP PLC was forced to shut down a huge oil processing unit for maintenance in Whiting, Indiana, had raised the worry of lower crude oil demand in the U.S. But it also renewed worries about low gasoline supplies in the middle of the U.S. summer driving season.
Nymex gasoline futures lost 0.03 cent to $2.3443 a gallon mid-afternoon in Asia after jumping 3.5 cents to $2.3446 a gallon Monday.
The energy market appeared to have already factored in news out of Nigeria that gunmen on Sunday attacked oil installations in the southern oil region, kidnapping two senior Nigerian employees of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, and a Briton and a Bulgarian.
More than 250 foreigners have been kidnapped since late 2005, with more than 150 expatriates seized this year alone. The spate of kidnappings and a series of bombings by a militant group demanding political concessions from the government have cut production in Africa’s largest oil exporter by about a quarter, helping drive up oil prices worldwide.
August Brent crude lost 15 cents to $75.63 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London. The contract rose as high as $76.34 Monday, its highest point since August 2006, after a global energy watchdog warned of a looming oil and natural gas supply shortage. It settled 16 cents higher at $75.78 a barrel.
The Paris-based International Energy Agency, an adviser to 26 industrialized countries, reported Monday that higher-than-expected demand for oil and natural gas would persist to 2012 amid tightening supplies.
Escalating global growth will draw on spare capacity from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and non-OPEC countries will fail to pick up the slack, the IEA said in its oil market report.
OPEC ministers dispute that supply shortages are driving up prices, blaming refinery problems and geopolitical unrest.
Heating oil prices on Nymex edged down 0.2 cent to $2.0908 a gallon. Natural gas futures rose 1.9 cents to $6.429 per 1,000 cubic feet.