Singapore: Oil prices fell in Asian trade on Wednesday as the US government announced the release of oil from its strategic reserve to help with recovery efforts after Hurricane Gustav.
New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for October delivery, dropped 34 cents to $109.37 a barrel, while Brent North Sea crude for October delivery eased 29 cents to $108.05.
The United States announced on Tuesday it was releasing 250,000 barrels from its emergency supplies, known as the strategic reserve.
“The release of the oil will prevent any shortage and that will, of course, help calm the market,” said Victor Shum, a Singapore-based analyst with energy consultancy Purvin and Gertz.
The US Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a complex of underground storage caverns that hold emergency supplies of crude oil. According to the US Department of Energy, the inventory exceeded 700 million barrels on April 2.
The US Department of the Interior said there was no oil production on Tuesday in the hurricane-affected region, where a quarter of US oil is normally produced. Ninety-five percent of natural gas production was offline.
The threat from Gustav raised grim memories of the 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita that damaged or destroyed about 165 of around 4,000 oil platforms in the Gulf.
But damage this time appeared to be less severe.
Crude prices have eased about 25% since reaching record levels above $147 in July, pulled down by worries about slowing global growth affecting energy demand.
As oil prices fell, Iran called for the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which produces 40 percent of world output, to discuss excess supply at its meeting in Vienna on September 9.
“Some OPEC members are providing the market with excess supply and producing more than their OPEC quota. Therefore, at the next meeting the members will request a stop to the excess supply,” Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said.
One hundred dollars a barrel is a minimum for oil prices, said the Iranian minister, whose country, an OPEC member, is the world’s fourth-largest crude producer.