The rising tensions in the Middle East continued to push up wholesale energy prices--with crude oil jumping above $30 a barrel in futures trading.
In mid-afternoon trading today on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the October contract for West Texas Intermediate--the benchmark grade of U.S. crude--was up $1.30, to $30.01.
The September contract for unleaded gasoline gained 2.44 cents, to $1.035 a gallon, while home heating oil shot up 5.79 cents, to 89.50 cents a gallon.
Oil prices edged higher in London on crisis jitters today. North Sea Brent crude oil for October delivery was valued at $27.90 a barrel at midday, up from Tuesday's $27.10.
Meanwhile, some cargoes were transferred and tankers were being reflagged to avoid economic sanctions against Iraq.
The Spanish oil company Compania Espanola de Petroleo SA said it planned to transfer 126,000 tons of Nigerian crude oil from a barred Iraqi-flagged tanker to another ship to allow the oil to be imported to a Canary Island refinery.
Spain's merchant marine had barred the Iraqi-flagged Almuntanabbi from Spanish ports Monday, but a spokesman said today that the department agreed to the transfer of the Nigerian crude to a "neutral" ship.
The Kuwaiti-flagged Triden Arrow, blocked Saturday by Spain from unloading 1,000 tons of Brazilian cotton in Barcelona, switched to the Liberian flag Tuesday and was permitted to unload.
Six members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries were considering holding an informal meeting this weekend to discuss the turmoil in the oil markets caused by the Persian Gulf crisis, sources close to the cartel said today in Brussels.
Indonesia suggested that six of the 13 OPEC members gather in Vienna on Sunday to examine the situation, according to the sources, who requested anonymity.
The sources stressed that no final decision had yet been made on whether to meet.
"It may or may not be held," one source said. "If it is, it will be very, very informal." No decisions could be made at the gathering, he said.