By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin
LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices edged up on Monday as supply disruptions in Kazakhstan and Libya offset worries stemming from the rapid global rise in Omicron infections.
Brent crude rose 19 cents, or 0.2%, to $81.94 a barrel at 1006 GMT, and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was up 20 cents, or 0.3%, at $79.10 a barrel.
Oil prices gained 5% last week after protests in Kazakhstan disrupted train lines and hit production at the country’s top oilfield Tengiz, while pipeline maintenance in Libya pushed production down to 729,000 barrels per day from a high of 1.3 million bpd last year.
Kazakhstan’s largest oil venture Tengizchevroil (TCO) is gradually increasing production to reach normal rates at the Tengiz field after protests limited output there in recent days, operator Chevron said on Sunday.
“The tailwind lent to oil prices by supply concerns should therefore abate, which suggests that prices will fall this week,” Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch said.
The fall of Azeri crude oil exports from Turkey’s Ceyhan port lent some support to prices. February exports were set at 14.72 million barrels, down from 17.27 million in January, a schedule seen by Reuters showed.
Oil is also drawing support from rising global demand and lower-than-expected supply additions from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and allies, or OPEC+.
OPEC’s output in December rose by 70,000 bpd from the previous month, versus the 253,000 bpd increase allowed under the OPEC+ supply deal which restored output slashed in 2020 when demand collapsed under COVID-19 lockdowns.
A surge in COVID-19 infections, however, put pressure on oil prices. Despite early studies showing a lower risk of severe disease or hospitalisation from Omicron compared to the previously dominant Delta variant, healthcare networks across Spain, Britain, Italy and elsewhere have found themselves in increasingly desperate circumstances.
Meanwhile, if Russia invades Ukraine, it could disrupt Russian crude exports to Europe and push oil prices higher, RBC Capital analysts said in a note.
Tens of thousands of Russian troops are gathered within reach of the border with Ukraine in preparation for what Washington and Kyiv say could be an invasion, eight years after Russia seized the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine. Russia denies invasion plans and has said it is responding to what it calls aggressive and provocative behaviour from the NATO military alliance and Ukraine, which aspires to join NATO.
(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London, additional reporting by Florence Tan and Naveen Thukral; Editing by Kim Coghill and Jason Neely)