Oil prices gained as markets assess impact of numerous international crises on world energy demand. Focus is shifting between Japan's crisis and rising tensions in Bahrain. Benchmark crude for April delivery settled at US$97.9 on the Nymex, while Brent crude rose to US$110.6 on the ICE Futures exchange.
In Bahrain, soldiers and riot police clashed with protesters demanding political reforms. Bahrain does not produce much oil, but it adjacent to Saudi Arabia- world number one oil producer. More than 1,000 Saudi-led troops entered Bahrain in support of the monarchy. Concerns abound that these uprisings could spill over to Saudi Arabia and Iran. In Libya, Gaddafi continued to pound rebel strongholds as the country's oil exports ground to a halt. With destruction caused by Japan's deadly earthquake and tsunami, energy demand is expected to initially decline. However, imports of oil, natural gas and coal will increase to make up for power lost from damaged nuclear facilities. Before the disaster struck, 50 nuclear reactors supplied about 25% of Japan's electricity. 13 reactors at 4 nuclear power stations are shut down. 28% of Japan's power generation comes from coal-fired plants. Platts reports that 5 of these are shut because of the earthquake, taking down about 10% of the country's coal-fired generating capacity. To make up for the shortfall, Barclays Capital estimates that Japan will need to increase imports of coal by 7,800 tons per day and of fuel oil by 143,000 bpd. The country also will need an extra 67,000 bpd of crude and 800 million cubic feet per day of liquefied natural gas