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Oil prices up slightly as U.S. drillers pause new rigs

By Stephen Feller
Oil markets opened higher on Tuesday as the world woke up from the Christmas holiday to news of an explosion at a Libyan pipeline. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/b02db000300f82ccf61bbbfb5f5bbcd6/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Oil markets opened higher on Tuesday as the world woke up from the Christmas holiday to news of an explosion at a Libyan pipeline. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 26 (UPI) -- The holiday is still ongoing in many countries, but oil prices continued a slow upward climb Tuesday as the world returns to work after Christmas.

News that oil delivery systems are being tested in the North Sea in hope of a restart around the new year, while drillers in the United States effectively added no new rigs last week, had traders holding relatively steady.

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A pipeline blast in Libya, which could result in oil prices continuing to shift higher, raised concern Tuesday morning over the potential 60,000 to 70,000 barrels per day being lost from the average 260,000 barrels moving through the Waha Oil pipeline daily.

In trading Tuesday, Brent crude oil was up around 2.3 percent as of 12:15 p.m. to reach 66.72 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was about about 2.2 percent as of 12:15 p.m. to reach 59.77 per barrel.

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Bakers Hughes oil rig counts, released late Friday and used as a measure of future indications for oil and gas in the United States, stayed relatively static, with natural gas rigs increasing by one to reach 184 and oil rigs remaining at 747.

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Ineos on Monday said it has started testing portions of the North Sea pipeline after announcing last week it plans to progressively restart the system after the new year. The company shut it down after discovering a crack on the network of it's Forties pipeline system.

The shutdown sent oil prices up in mid-December because the system carries about 40 percent of production in the North Sea, which includes the blend of oils that make up the global benchmark, Brent.

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