Oil shock fears as Libya erupts
The spectre of full civil war in oil-rich Libya and reports of the creation of an Islamic emirate in country’s “Barqa” region has moved the Mid-East crisis into a more dangerous phase, setting off an explosive rise in US crude prices.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
21 Feb 2011
“This is potentially worse for oil than the Iran crisis in 1979,” said Paul Horsnell, head of oil research at Barclays Capital. “That was a revolution in one country, here there are so many countries at once. The world has only 4.5m barrels-per-day (bpd) of spare capacity, which is not comfortable.”
US oil contracts jumped $6 a barrel on Monday to over $95, chasing Brent crude, which traded as high as $108, as the global oil system is drawn into the vortex. While Egypt is a minor oil player, Libya’s Sirte Basin holds Africa’s largest reserves and supplies 1.4m bpd in exports, mostly to Italy, Germany and Spain.
BP, Statoil, Total and ENI have begun evacuating families and non-essential staff from Libya. BP chief Bob Dudley told Sky News that the company has only limited exploration in Libya but “remains committed to doing business” there.
Germans oil explorer Wintershall said it was winding down its Libyan operations, but Italy’s ENI has most to lose from its pipeline to Libya. ENI’s stock tumbled 5pc in Milan, leading a 3.6pc fall in the MIB index.
Global oil inventories are higher than before the 2008 price spike, and OPEC can raise output if needed. It has refused to act so far despite pleas from the International Energy Agency (IEA) that the supply picture is already “alarming”.