MARKET WATCH: Brent oil prices top $49/bbl; fires threaten Canadian oil sands

Brent crude oil prices on the London market closed above $49/bbl on May 17 and continued reaching toward $50/bbl during May 18 trading while US light, sweet crude prices on the New York market hovered above $48/bbl in advance of a weekly government inventory report.

New York crude oil futures prices dropped during early May 18 trading on reports of a stronger dollar. Oil trades in US dollars so a stronger dollar makes oil more expensive for buyers using other currencies. The Wall Street Journal Dollar Index rose 0.4%.

Analysts said the dollar strengthened while market participants awaited release of the latest minutes from the US Federal Reserve meeting. The US Energy Information Administration also was scheduled May 18 to release its estimated levels of oil and product inventories.

Meanwhile, wildfires flared up again in Alberta, forcing another evacuation of oil sands workers just as they returned to the production areas. The wildfires have been burning for days. Firefighters said the blaze turned north on May 16, reaching the western edge of Fort McMurray. Consequently, small camps holding about 600 oil sands workers were evacuated.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said thousands of people moved to the north again on May 17. The workers left oil sands mines and processing complexes owned by Suncor Energy Inc. and Syncrude Canada Ltd.

By midday May 17, Alberta government officials reported 8 employees remained at Suncor and 78 at Syncrude. Normally, some 7,400 people work at Syncrude.

Energy prices

The June crude oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 59¢ to settle at $48.31/bbl, and the July contract was up 57¢ to $48.99/bbl.

The NYMEX natural gas contract for June delivery rose nearly 2¢ to a rounded $2.05/MMbtu. The Henry Hub price was $1.97/MMbtu, up 6¢.

Heating oil for June delivery gained nearly 3¢ to $1.47/gal. The price for reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenates blending for June climbed 2.8¢ to a rounded $1.63/gal.

The Brent crude contract for July on London’s ICE was up 31¢ to $49.28/bbl. The August contract gained 31¢ to $49.74/bbl. The June gas oil contract gained $6.75 to $437/tonne.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries basket of crudes price for May 17 was $44.82/bbl, up 45¢.

Contact Paula Dittrick at

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