Two more oil companies halted output on Tuesday in Libya as unrest sweeping Africa's third-largest producer kept crude prices near a 2-1/2-year high.
A pipeline bringing Libyan natural gas to Italy was also closed and export terminals that ship both crude and oil products were disrupted as violence and confusion gripped a country that pumps nearly 2 percent of world output.
Oil prices, which had surged on Monday, steadied as Saudi Arabia reassured consumers OPEC members would be ready to meet supply shortages, while an official at the International Energy Agency said it was stood ready to release stockpiles in the event of a real disruption.
Several oil companies said they were shutting down operations as they evacuated staff. U.S. oil companies including Occidental Petroleum Corp. said production was unaffected.
Spain's Repsol and Italy's Eni said they had shut in production. A day earlier, BASFunit Wintershall confirmed it was winding down output of as much as 100,000 bpd.
The companies did not specify the oil volumes affected but Repsol said it shut the El-Sharara oilfield, which an industry source said pumps about 200,000 barrels per day (bpd), 13 percent of Libya's estimated 1.6 million bpd output.
"We have suspended all operations in Libya today because of the violence and uncertainty," said a spokesman for Madrid-based Repsol, which on its website had net 2009 Libyan output at almost 35,000 bpd, the most recent figure available.
Eni said it temporarily stopped some oil and natural gas output. It said none of its Libyan plants and facilities had been damaged.
A number of companies including BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Suncor Energy Inc. said they were pulling out staff, but had not confirmed any production impact.
Among U.S. oil companies, Marathon Oil Corp. and Occidental said production in Libya continued. Marathon is a partner in the Waha concession, along with ConocoPhillips and Hess Corp.
Schlumberger Ltd., the world's largest oilfield services company, was shutting down operations in Libya. Chief Executive Andrew Gould cited "disturbing" events in Libya, which accounts for 1 percent of Schlumberger's overall revenue.
GAS LINE HIT
OPEC member Libya is Italy's biggest oil supplier and covers about 10 percent of its natural gas needs through the underwater pipeline Greenstream, controlled by Eni.
Eni said gas supplies from Greenstream were suspended but also that it could meet demand from its clients.
An Italian minister said Italy was ready to tap emergency gas stocks if Libyan supplies were interrupted. Italy has enough oil reserves for 90 days and gas for 30 days, a government source said.
Oil prices hit a 2-1/2-year high above $108 a barrel this week. While other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries could fill any halt in Libyan oil supply, analysts say that extra supply would probably be of lower quality than Libyan crude.
Flows from marine oil terminals in Libya were halted, an Italian government source said, while trade sources said operations at some Libyan oil ports were disrupted.
"The situation is worrying. This morning the oil terminals were blocked in Libya," the government source said.
It was not possible to get through by phone to Libyan oil ports or shipping agents on Tuesday.
"Everything is out," said a source with a major oil company. "We can't get through to anyone. Our operations people say contact is impossible with the shipping agents, port officials, anyone. The lines are all down."
Shipping sources said operations at Benghazi, Tripoli and Misurata Mediterranean ports, which handle general cargo and container shipping, had closed down.
Libyan oil product exports were severely disrupted on Tuesday, but some traders said cargoes were continuing to load. One trader said his cargo of gasoline was due to load as expected at Ras Lanuf.
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