NEW YORK, May 25 (UPI) -- Temporary supply outages left oil spilling out of storage to push oil prices to their highest level of the year Wednesday, running quickly toward $50 per barrel.
Data released late Tuesday by the American Petroleum Institute show the amount of crude oil in storage in the United States dropped by 5.1 million barrels last week. That's more than 60 percent above a prediction earlier in the week from S&P Global Platts.
U.S. inventory levels may be influenced by outages in Canada, the top crude oil exporter to the United States. As much as 1 million barrels per day were sidelined by wildfires in the Fort McMurray area of Alberta, though the provincial government this week gave the all-clear for workers to return to oil sands installations as the fire threat moves east toward Saskatchewan.
"This executive order will help ensure there are no artificial shortages of fuel impacting the state's residents or visitors," he said in a statement.
Before the order, S&P Global Platts said it expected gasoline stockpiles to report a draw of 1.6 million barrels in the United States just days before the busiest holiday travel season of the year.
The price for Brent crude oil moved within shouting distance of $50 per barrel, moving up 1.1 percent to $49.15 per barrel at the start of trading in New York. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for crude oil prices, gained 0.9 percent to open at $49.04 per barrel.
The rally may be a reflection of the anticipation building ahead of next week's meeting of ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The June meeting would be the first since a proposal to freeze production levels collapsed after Iran said it wanted to regain a market share lost to sanctions before giving any consideration to oil output.
A run toward $50 per barrel may not translate to full recovery for a market that sold oil at above $100 per barrel just two years ago. In announcing additional job layoffs, Paul Goodfellow, a vice president for Shell, said his company was preparing a strategy that based performance on winning in "this 'lower for longer' environment."