Oil price rises as Kazakh turmoil adds to supply worries

'The upward jump in oil prices mostly reflects the market jitters as unrest escalates in Kazakhstan and the political situation in Libya continues to deteriorate and sideline oil output.'

Troops are seen at the main square where hundreds of people were protesting against the government, after authorities' decision to lift price caps on liquefied petroleum gas, in Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 6, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/MARIYA GORDEYEVA/FILE PHOTO)
Troops are seen at the main square where hundreds of people were protesting against the government, after authorities' decision to lift price caps on liquefied petroleum gas, in Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 6, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MARIYA GORDEYEVA/FILE PHOTO)

Oil prices rose and were heading for their biggest weekly gains since mid-December on Friday as unrest in Kazakhstan and outages in Libya fueled concerns over supply.

Brent crude climbed 76 cents, or 0.9%, to $82.75 a barrel before 10 a.m. (GMT). US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 77 cents, or 1%, to $80.23 a barrel.

Brent and WTI were on track for gains of almost 6.5% in the first week of the year, with prices at their highest since late November, as supply concerns overtook worries that the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant might hurt demand.

"The upward jump in oil prices mostly reflects the market jitters as unrest escalates in Kazakhstan and the political situation in Libya continues to deteriorate and sideline oil output," Rystad Energy analyst Louise Dickson said.

Security forces appeared to be in control of the streets of Kazakhstan's main city Almaty on Friday and the president said constitutional order had mostly been restored, a day after Russia sent troops to put down an uprising.

 Workers use a steam jet to clean an oil pump in the Uzen oil and gas field in the Mangistau Region of Kazakhstan November 13, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/PAVEL MIKHEYEV) Workers use a steam jet to clean an oil pump in the Uzen oil and gas field in the Mangistau Region of Kazakhstan November 13, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/PAVEL MIKHEYEV)

The protests began in Kazakhstan's oil-rich western regions after state price caps on butane and propane were removed on New Year's Day.

Oil production at Kazakhstan's top field Tengiz was reduced on Thursday, its operator Chevron said, as some contractors disrupted train lines in support of protests taking place across the central Asian country.

Meanwhile, supply additions from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and allies, together called OPEC+, are not keeping up with demand growth.

OPEC's output in December rose by 70,000 barrels per day from the previous month, versus the 253,000 bpd increase allowed under the OPEC+ supply deal, which restored output that was slashed in 2020 when demand collapsed under COVID-19 lockdowns.

Production in Libya has dropped to 729,000 barrels per day, down from a high of 1.3 million bpd last year, partly due to pipeline maintenance work.

While the Omicron coronavirus variant is rapidly taking hold, demand-side concerns are easing amid rising evidence that it is less severe than previous variants.

"The concerns about a massive slump in oil demand have faded now that it has become clear that Omicron leads to milder forms of the disease than previous variants of the virus, meaning that massive mobility restrictions are not likely," said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.