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The Wall Street Journal: Oil News Roundup: August 2, 2006 7:24 p.m.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE
August 2, 2006 7:24 p.m.

Oil futures rose to nearly $76 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, in part on worries that Tropical Storm Chris will become a hurricane and disrupt oil production in the Gulf. Here is Wednesday’s roundup of energy-related news:

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BASF’S BOON: BASF AG, the world’s largest chemical company, said its second-quarter profit rose by 18%, helped by a surge in earnings at its oil and gas unit. Chief Executive Juergen Hambrecht said BASF expects “significantly higher sales” for the full year, due partly to a handful of acquisitions this year, including its $5 billion purchase of New Jersey-based Engelhard Corp., which makes pollution-reducing material.

NATURAL-GAS PRICES SIZZLE: Natural-gas prices rose as scorching temperatures that baked states in the Northeast and the Midwest put pressure on the nation’s electricity grids. A brutal heat wave has air conditioners stretching the capacity of U.S. power companies and driving up the price of natural gas — the lifeblood of many power plants.

•Court Blasts FERC: A federal appeals court criticized the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s handling of California’s energy crisis and ordered it to consider stiffer penalties for power companies that manipulated the market and caused blackouts during the crisis.

•India, Nigeria Join Forces: State-owned Indian Oil Corporation plans to invest some $2 billion in a new Nigerian refinery, in exchange for a long-term crude-oil contract, India’s Financial Express reports.

•Canadian Merger: Calgary’s Canetic Resources Trust agreed to buy an unnamed private company’s natural-gas and oil interests and thousands of acres of undeveloped land in central Alberta and northeastern British Columbia for about $798.6 million, Bloomberg reports.

•Investment in Biofuel: The U.S. government will spend $250 million to create research centers focused on finding more-efficient ways to produce cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels, Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman announced.

•Could Be Worse: Mr. Bodman also said high energy prices had not yet harmed the economy nearly as badly as they did in the 1970s.

•Nitrogen Boost: More motorists are trying to improve their gas mileage by filling their tires with pure nitrogen, the stuff NASCAR drivers use.

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