| Updated at: 0206 PST, Tuesday, February 01, 2011|
NEW YORK: Oil prices smashed through $100 a barrel Monday for the first time since the 2008 economic crisis, as traders worried that unrest in Egypt could disrupt oil flows through the Suez Canal.
Oil prices surged to $101 a barrel for London's main Brent North Sea crude contract, as protesters gathered for a seventh straight day amid threats of a general strike.
Egypt is not a major oil producer, but is home to the vitally important Suez Canal, which carries around 2.4 million barrels of oil a day -- roughly equivalent to the daily output of Iraq or Brazil.
Egyptian authorities insist the canal is still working at full capacity, but unrest has caused major shipping giants such as AP Moller-Maersk to halt operations in the country.
The threat of delays have prompted some normally reticent oil industry honchos to sound the alarm.
OPEC secretary-general Abdalla Salem El-Badri warned "there could be a real shortage" of crude oil passing through Suez.
While stressing that the market was still well supplied, El-Badri said "if we see a real shortage, we will need to act."
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries pumps about 40 percent of the world's oil, with the bulk coming from member Saudi Arabia.
The oil cartel chief said there was no need for an emergency production meeting ahead of the next scheduled gathering in Vienna in June.
According to figures from Barclays Capital around two thirds of energy that flows through the Suez Canal heads northward toward the Mediterranean.