3 Min Read
* Armed protesters block 250,000 bpd of production in Libya
* OPEC-led production cut expected to be extended into H2 2017
* China becomes no.3 overseas destination for U.S. crude - EIA
By Henning Gloystein
SINGAPORE, March 29 (Reuters) - Oil prices on Wednesday extended gains from the previous session, lifted by supply disruptions in Libya and expectations that an OPEC-led output reduction will be extended into the second half of the year.
Prices for front-month Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil, had risen 14 cents from their last close to $51.47 per barrel by 0127 GMT.
In the United States, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 20 cents at $48.57 a barrel.
Both crude benchmarks rose by more than 1 percent the previous day.
Oil production from the western Libyan fields of Sharara and Wafa has been blocked by armed protesters, reducing output by 252,000 barrels per day (bpd), a source at the National Oil Corporation (NOC) told Reuters late on Tuesday.
"That (Libya), along with the Iranian oil minister saying there is likely to be an extension to the production cut deal helped crude oil rally overnight," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at futures brokerage AxiTrader.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), along with some other producers including Russia, have agreed to cut production by almost 1.8 million bpd during the first half of the year in order to rein in a global fuel supply overhang and prop up prices.
But as markets remain bloated halfway into the cuts, there is a broad expectation that the supply cuts will be extended into the second half of the year.
Despite the rising consensus of extended cuts, the OPEC-led strategy to re-balance oil markets is not without controversy.
As OPEC and especially Saudi Arabia cut their production, other producers not participating in the cuts have been quick to fill the supply gap and gain market share.
In the United States in particular, shale oil drillers have seized the opportunity to ramp up output and exports.
As a result, China became the third biggest overseas destination for U.S. crude oil in 2016, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), up from ninth position the previous year.
"In 2016, U.S. crude oil exports averaged 520,000 bpd, 12 percent above the 2015 level, despite a year-over-year decline in domestic crude oil production," the EIA said.
With U.S. oil production rising sharply again this year C-OUT-T-EIA, traders expect American exports to surge further in 2017.
Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Richard Pullin