Oil prices rise on concerns about Iran, Nigeria
LONDON – Crude futures rose Monday after another attack on an oil platform in Nigeria and Iran warned that any sanctions imposed over the country’s nuclear program could send oil prices even higher.Brent crude for February delivery gained 77 cents to $63.03 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures exchange, ahead of the contract’s expiration Monday. Trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange was closed for the Martin Luther King Day holiday.Royal Dutch Shell PLC said it had evacuated over 300 staffers and contractors from facilities in the Niger Delta. Heavily armed attackers damaged the Benisede oil platform in the Niger Delta and said some of its staff had been injured. The company also said it had begun evacuating personnel from some facilities in the region.On Wednesday, gunmen attacked Shell’s EA platform near the delta coast, seizing a Bulgarian, an American, a British and a Honduran. A major Shell pipeline leading to its Forcados export terminal was blown up the following day.The company said recent violence has caused its consortium to cut 106,000 barrels in daily crude production. Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports. The country produces about 2.5 million barrels a day.Analysts also said prices were supported by concerns that the U.N. Security Council will consider sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear program, which the United States says is geared toward acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran maintains that the program will strictly be used to generate electricity.”The major concern is that there is no spare capacity to make up for any drop in oil supply from Iran, a fact that the country’s leaders know and which enables them to be bolder than usual,” said Sucden Commodity brokers.Iranian Economy Minister Davoud Danesh-Jafari warned that any sanctions on Iran from the West could, by disturbing Iran’s political and economic situation, raise oil prices “beyond levels the West expects,” Danesh-Jafari said, the English-language Tehran Times reported Monday.