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ENERGY TECH
Oil prices hold close to 2008 highs

Taiwan may scrap $20 bln petro project: report
Taipei (AFP) April 7, 2011 - Taiwan has admitted it could be forced to scrap a controversial petrochemical project and build it abroad after the government's top watchdog objected to the plan, a report said Thursday. The planned Tw$600 billion ($20.3 billion) refinery and a petrochemical complex on the coast in western Changhua county, has been flagged by the government as providing a boost for the island's economy. But it was dealt a blow on Wednesday when the Control Yuan, the island's top government watchdog, objected to it in a report that investigated the water supply of the planned project. "Since that area is already short of water supply, it's better not to introduce such a water-consuming industry there," it said.

After the news, the Economic Daily News quoted economic affairs minister Shih Yen-shiang as telling reporters: "If the project fails to pass the required environmental impact evaluation... then there is no choice but to change the investment venue abroad." The complex, proposed by partly state-owned Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co, has been under consideration since the 1990s but has seen the venue changed several times due to strong objections from residents. According to the latest blueprint proposed by the company to the government for environmental impact evaluation, the complex would occupy 2,800 hectares (7,000 acres) of coastal land. It will house a refinery and more than 20 related petrochemical plants. But environmental activists insist that Taiwan, long plagued by industrial pollution, can no longer afford such large energy-guzzling projects.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) April 7, 2011
Oil prices held close to recent 2008 highs on Thursday as traders shrugged off news of another earthquake in disaster-hit Japan.

In late afternoon deals, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in May slid 20 cents to $122.10 a barrel after soaring the previous day to $123.37, the highest level since early August 2008.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, added 42 cents to $109.23. On Wednesday, it had hit $109.56, a level last seen in September 2008.

"Crude oil prices consolidated and trading volumes are fairly light, as investors ... remain cautious," said Sucden analyst Myrto Sokou.

A powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit northeastern Japan late on Thursday, prompting Japanese authorities to issue a localised tsunami alert that was lifted shortly afterwards.

The news sent a wobble through financial markets, weeks after Japan's devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami that sparked a nuclear disaster.

Meanwhile, traders digested news that the European Central Bank hiked interest rates for the first time in nearly three years to tame rising prices, just as the eurozone debt crisis claimed Portugal as its latest victim.

The ECB lifted its benchmark refinancing or "refi" rate to 1.25 percent from a record low of 1.0 percent, where it had stood since May 2009.

Oil hit two-and-a-half-year highs on Wednesday amid concerns about the war in Libya and as the dollar weakened against the euro.

A falling dollar encourages investors to buy dollar-priced commodities in a bid to protect their investment, so tending to push oil prices higher.

Victor Shum, senior principal for Purvin and Gertz energy consultants in Singapore, said disruption to Libyan oil supplies appeared to be easing after rebels fighting veteran leader Moamer Kadhafi started to ship crude.

A Greek-owned, Liberian-registered tanker carrying $100 million of crude left a terminal near Tobruk, 130 kilometres (80 miles) from the Egyptian border, on Wednesday.

The cargo was the first consignment of oil to leave Libya since UN-backed air strikes began on March 19 against Kadhafi's crackdown on the rebels.

Shum said dealers continued to monitor the volatile situation in the oil-rich Middle East and North Africa region, where popular uprisings have already toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.

burs-rfj/bmm



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