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The New York Times: Oil Bounces After $2 Slump on Aircraft Bomb Plot

By REUTERS
Published: August 11, 2006
Filed at 0:12 a.m. ET

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices edged up on Friday as geopolitical unease and uncertainty over output from North America’s biggest oilfield checked a 3 percent tumble triggered by a thwarted transatlantic aircraft bomb plot.

U.S. light, sweet crude oil (CLc1) drifted 39 cents higher to $74.39 by 0407 GMT, reversing a $2.35 slump a day ago as traders worried that travelers might shun air travel and oil consumption could fall due to the planned attacks, which officials said were stopped just days before being carried out.

London Brent crude (LCOc1) climbed 30 cents to $75.58, about $3.00 below the record high touched on Tuesday.

The suspected plot raised the specter of strikes to rival the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that killed about 3,000 people and came 13 months after four British Muslim suicide bombers killed 52 people on London’s transport network.

U.S. unleaded gasoline futures settled at below $2.00 per gallon for the first time since June 21 on Thursday, before recovering 1.89 cents to $2.0439 on Friday.

Fears of a prolonged outage at Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay oilfield continued to support prices. While the U.S. government on Thursday appeared to allow BP (BP.L) to keep oil flowing from the western half of the development, the major has said it will decide only next week whether to do so.

“The Alaskan situation is still not totally clear and then we have all of the other bullish geopolitical risks,” Tony Nunan, Assistant Manager of Risk Management at Mitsubishi Corp, said, referring to the overnight fall factors in crude.

BP WESTERN LINE HOPES

BP began shutting the 400,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Prudhoe Bay oilfield, which accounts for 8 percent of U.S. production, on Sunday due to a corroded pipe, but has been working to keep some output flowing from the west, where damage is less severe.

The U.S. Transportation Department’s Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on Thursday laid out new requirements for restarting BP’s halted eastern pipeline, but also suggested that the company — which had voluntarily moved to halt production — would be allowed to use its Western line.

“The order also directs BP to strip the insulation from its Western operating line, which may continue to move oil, and conduct an ultrasonic test… to obtain a complete picture of the line’s conditions,” it quoted PHMSA Administrator Admiral Thomas Barrett as saying in a statement.

The replacement of corroded pipelines at the oilfield is expected to cost around $100 million, a BP source said, although the total cost to BP will likely be several times this figure.

The market also lost ground on Thursday after Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) said it had repaired a pipeline in Nigeria shut since last month, allowing 180,000 bpd of shut Bonny Light oil production to start to resume.

Oil traders are also watching for any progress toward ending the four-week fighting between Israel and Hizbollah in Lebanon after key U.N. Security Council members had failed to reach a resolution, prompting Russia to propose a 72-hour truce.

Diplomats said a deal was possible by the end of Friday.

Hizbollah guerrillas fought Israeli troops who seized a key town in southeast Lebanon on Thursday, while Israel said plans for a deeper ground assault into southern Lebanon were on hold to give diplomacy a chance.

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