Lingering concerns about the status of the Trans Alaska Pipeline helped February crude oil surge past the $92 mark Wednesday.
Oil settled at $91.86 a barrel after reaching $92.39 during the midweek session. Traders have feared the potential impact on supply from a prolonged closure of the 800-mile-long oil pipeline, which ceased operations Saturday after a small leak was discovered. The pipeline was temporarily restarted late Tuesday in an effort to increase the temperature of oil within the pipeline and prevent ice formation and paraffin wax buildup as work on a bypass line continued. However, the volume of oil flowing through the pipeline remains below capacity. Shipments are not expected to reach normal rates for several days.
Also boosting oil Wednesday was a U.S. Department of Energy report showing a 2.2 million-barrel decline in the country's oil stocks last week. The January 7, 2011, figure of 333.1 million barrels was lower than analysts had predicted.
Crude oil bottomed out at $90.79 Wednesday.
Natural gas for February delivery ended the day a nickel higher, settling at $4.53 per thousand cubic feet. The bullish sentiment stems from predictions that below-normal temperatures should blanket much the East Coast for the remainder of the month.
Front-month natural gas traded within a range from $4.45 to $4.55 Wednesday.
February gasoline fell two cents to settle at $2.46 a gallon. The gasoline futures price fluctuated from $2.45 to $2.48.
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