| Updated at: 1422 PST, Friday, September 17, 2010|
SINGAPORE: Crude prices blew past 75 dollars in noontime Asian trade Friday as oil giant Pemex shut platforms and wells in the Mexican Gulf coast menaced by a strengthening Hurricane Karl, analysts said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for October delivery, was up 47
cents to 75.04 dollars a barrel in the afternoon. Brent North Sea crude for delivery in November gained 45 cents to 78.93 dollars.
The closure of wells belonging to state-run Pemex and the evacuation of its platform personnel as Hurricane Karl advanced was pushing prices up, said Serene Lim, oil and gas analyst at ANZ bank in Singapore.
"I think the strength in oil prices could be from Hurricane Karl's threat," she said.
Pemex had earlier announced that it had halted production at 14 wells in the Gulf of Mexico and began evacuating personnel on Thursday as Hurricane Karl strengthened.
"Since yesterday, as a precaution, we began evacuating platforms in the area and that operation is complete," media reports quoted Pemex as saying.
In its latest bulletin, the US National Hurricane Center upgraded Hurricane Karl to a category two storm, reporting winds of 165 kilometres (105 miles) an hour as it approached the Mexican coast.
"Additional strengthening is expected," the centre said, warning also that the storm could trigger life-threatening flash flooding especially in mountainous areas.
"A dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 2-3 metres (6-9 feet) above normal tide levels along the immediate coast near and to the
north of where the center makes landfall," the centre warned.
Mexico's national weather service said Karl was expected to crash ashore in Veracruz state around midday Friday possibly as a category three storm.