Oil rises on Libya uncertainty, but Opec supply rise keeps lid on prices

SINGAPORE: Oil prices rose on Tuesday on uncertainty over Libyan oil exports, although plans by producer cartel Opec to raise output continued to drag.

Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $ 74.92 per barrel at 0127 GMT, up 19 cents, or 0.25 per cent from their last close.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $ 68.26 a barrel, up 18 cents, or 0.26 per cent.

Traders said prices were mostly driven up by uncertainty around oil exports by Libya, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec).

Eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces have handed control of oil ports to a separate National Oil Corporation (NOC) based in the country’s east.

The official state-owned oil company based in the capital Tripoli, also called NOC, will not be allowed to handle that oil anymore, he said.

In comments later confirmed to Reuters, Ahmed Mismari, spokesman of Haftar’s Libya National Army (LNA), said on television that no tanker would be allowed to dock at eastern ports without permission from an NOC entity based in the main eastern city, Benghazi.

The uncertainty over Libya’s oil exports comes after Opec together with a group of non-Opec partners including top producer Opec announced a supply rise of around 1 million barrels per day (bpd) aimed at cooling oil markets.

Oil markets have tightened significantly since 2017, when Opec and its partners started withholding supply to prop up slumping prices at the time.

“Despite the Opec agreement (last week) we believe that tight supply is likely to drive oil prices higher during 2018,” Jason Gammel of US investment bank Jefferies said in a note

“We expect that Brent prices will be in excess of $ 80 per barrel in 2H18,” he added.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BoAML) said tight market conditions would push Brent prices to $ 90 per barrel by the second quarter of 2019.

But BoAML warned of uncertainty as the impact of announced US sanctions against Iran was not yet clear, and as the effects of the global trade dispute between the United States and major other economies including the European Union and China gradually take effect.

“We estimate a demand drop of 44,000 bpd for every 1 per cent drop in global trade,” the bank said.