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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 March, 2005, 22:12 GMT
Oil prices rise following blast
The aftermath of the explosion
The explosion killed at least 14 people
Oil prices rose on Thursday in the aftermath of the explosion at BP's Texas refinery, the third biggest in the US.

US light crude gained more than a dollar, or $1.03 (0.55), to reach $54.84 a barrel, while Brent crude rose 89 cents to $53.93.

Oil prices are now less than $3 below last week's record highs.

New York petrol (gasoline) futures were up 2.43 cents to $1.5992 a gallon, below their overnight high of $1.608.

It's a reminder of how vulnerable we are
Phil Flynn, Oil analyst at Alaron Trading

Analysts said the price of oil would have risen further were it not for large US crude stocks and the strength of the dollar, which is the core oil currency.

Ahead of the blast, oil prices had fallen to a two-week low.

'Very lucky'

US crude stocks rose by 4.1 million barrels to 309.3 million last week, the highest level since July 2002.

"The US has been running refineries at record rates... and we've been very lucky we haven't had a major problem like this earlier," said Phil Flynn, an oil analyst at Alaron Trading in Chicago.

"It's a reminder of how vulnerable we are."

The price of petrol could yet rise further in the US following the blast, as gasoline stocks fell by 4.1 million barrels last week, and are down 3% over the past fortnight.

While stocks are still 7.5% above last year's levels, the US peak-demand driving season is two months away, and analysts say dealers are starting to worry over gasoline supplies.

Opec boost

The giant BP Texas City refinery produces 3% of the US's petrol.

It houses 30 refinery units and has a 470,000-barrel-a-day capacity.

Crude oil prices have risen by about $10 a barrel this year, prompting oil producers' cartel Opec last week to sanction an immediate increase in production quotas of 500,000 barrels a day.

Oil markets will be closed on 25 March for Good Friday.

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