Oil prices remain near $92 on Iran, Libya outlook

The price of oil struggled to advance much beyond $92 a barrel Tuesday on expectations that supplies will rise with ramped up output in Libya and the North Sea, along with more exports from Iran if a deal on its nuclear program succeeds.

By midday in Europe, the benchmark U.S. oil contract for February delivery was up 23 cents at $92.03 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 92 cents to close at $91.80 on Monday.

Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude used by many U.S. refineries, was flat at $105.27.

An agreement Sunday between Iran and six world powers may enable Iran’s oil industry, whose exports were severely limited by economic sanctions over its nuclear program, to sell more crude after the deal takes effect Jan. 20.

The planned six-month interim agreement will limit Tehran’s uranium enrichment and allow international inspectors access to its nuclear facilities.

News of the agreement coincided with reports of a rebound in production by Libya. Meanwhile, North Sea oil output is due to increase with the restart of the Buzzard oilfield.

Investors will also be monitoring fresh information on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined products.

Data for the week ending Jan. 10 is expected to show a draw of 1.6 million barrels in crude oil stocks and a build of 1.7 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

The American Petroleum Institute will release its report on oil stocks later Tuesday, while the report from the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration — the market benchmark — will be out on Wednesday.

The expected draw would be the seventh consecutive decline in U.S. crude oil inventories.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

— Wholesale gasoline was down 0.6 cents at $2.629 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 3.9 cents to $4.313 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil fell 0.3 cents to $2.937 a gallon.