Markets

Oil prices slipped slightly in Asian trading on Tuesday but remain well above $120 a barrel for Brent crude, as investors fret about Libya, unrest in North Africa,  and Nigerian election delays, not to mention delivery problems in the North Sea and a strike in Gabon.

At 0810 London time, Brent crude was at $120.67, down $0.39, but still close to its highest level since 2008. The premium over West Texas Intermediate -  the US benchmark – widened to $12.80 – short of its March record of $17 but still high by past standards, in recognition of the greater threats to supply in Europe than North America.

Libyan rebels are set for their first oil export as soon as Tuesday as they seek funding to sustain their uprising against Muammer Gaddafi’s 41-year rule of the north African nation.

The Liberia-flagged Equator tanker was off Port Said, Egypt, early on Monday and is expected to dock at the Marsa el-Hariga crude oil export terminal near Tubruq, in east Libya, on Tuesday morning, according to Lloyd’s Intelligence, the shipping industry data provider.

The owner of the tanker, Greek-based Dynacom Tankers Management Ltd, declined to comment when contacted by the Financial Times. Dynacom is Greece’s third-largest tanker operator.

Kiran Stacey

Fukushima Daiichi before the tsunamiThere has been a great deal of commentary in the last few weeks that the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant is not as bad as the Chernobyl meltdown.

We can only hope that prediction proves correct. But for the nuclear industry, say the analysts at UBS, the consequences are already even worse.

In a mammoth 140-page report looking at the future of the global nuclear industry, they say:

While the 1986 Chernobyl accident, at least to date, had a significantly greater environmental impact, we would argue that Fukushima raises even larger credibility issues for the nuclear industry than previous accidents.

Kiran Stacey

Amrita Sen, BarCap’s oil analyst, has kindly agreed to extend the deadline so more Energy Source readers will get the chance to ask their questions.

Amrita is one of the oil industry’s best known analysts, and is expert on everything from the effect of the Libyan conflict on oil supplies to what high oil prices mean for Opec and the wider economy.

Email all your questions to energysource@ft.com by the morning of Tuesday, April 5th.

Kiran Stacey

Many thanks for all your questions for Keith Parker, chief executive of the UK Nuclear Industry Association. His answers will appear on this site on Friday, April 1st.

Next week, the person in the hotseat will be Amrita Sen, Barcap’s oil analyst.

Amrita is one of the oil industry’s best known analysts, and will be taking your questions on everything from the effect of the Libyan conflict on oil supplies to what high oil prices mean for Opec and the wider economy.

Email all your questions to energysource@ft.com by the end of Tuesday, April 5th.

With Brent Crude at $115 a barrel, it is little surprise to see the International Energy Agency talking in terms of oil remaining at $100 for 2011. And if it does, the organisation expects OPEC members to generate over $1,000bn in export revenues for the first time, as the FT reported on Wednesday.

Little wonder that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, which dominate the 13-nation cartel, can afford to splash out on big public spending plans to help quell social unrest. But it is expensive – Saudi Arabia now needs an oil price of $83 a barrel to balance its 2011 budget. And it may not work: history suggests that as countries grow richer, their citizens want rights as well as rewards.

Political scientists are still refining the theory but they generally accept its central tenets. The development of Europe, east Asia and Latin America has produced many examples of countries where, as incomes have risen, authoritarian regimes have been replaced with more democratic systems.

Kiran Stacey

Over the past week, the oil price appears to have moved in sync with events in Libya. When Gaddafi looked close to quashing the revolution, prices dropped with the expectation that Libyan oil would start flowing again. Every time the rebels have been given a boost, oil prices have gone back up.

So last Tuesday, as pro-Gaddafi forces neared Benghazi, oil dropped 3.9 per cent. But when UN Resolution 1973 was passed on Thursday, it went up 3.5 per cent. It fell again after Gaddafi announced a ceasfire, but rose as evidence came in of his attacks on rebel-held towns. Today, as markets react to the concerted bombing campaign over the weekend, oil has continued to rise, taking Brent back over $115 a barrel.

FT Energy Source

FT Energy Source

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- Two different disasters will have profound effects on US energy policy

- UK suffers from legacy of North Sea gas abundance

- Plant power seen as only viable long-term alternative to petrol

A nasty stasis in shares in E.ON, RWE and EDF at pixel time:

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