RIYADH // World oil prices pushed upwards for a third day on concerns that Libyan oil and gas exports were on the verge of collapse.
Unrest sweeping through Libya has already halted a quarter of its 1.5 million barrels of daily oil output, and shut a gas pipeline to Europe, some ports, refining units and banks, industry officials said.
Libya is the world's 10th-largest oil exporter and also supplies 12 per cent of Italy's gas needs.
"The whole industry will probably shut within days," said a trading strategist with a major European oil company that operates oilfields in Libya.
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Brent crude oil futures for April delivery rose US$4.57 to $110.35 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London.
In New York, the US benchmark price rose $2.55 to $97.97 a barrel.
Hundreds of demonstrators have been killed by Libyan security forces and large parts of the country are already in the control of local communities, human rights groups and protesters say.
The son of the Libyan president Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan president, earlier predicted a bloody civil war and accused protesters of planning to burn Libya's oilfields.
Several senior Libyan officials have defected, including many diplomats, soldiers and managers of the oil industry.
Foreign energy companies in Libya including ENI, Repsol and Wintershall have stopped output and the gas pipeline to Europe closed on Tuesday, company officials said.
Total, the French oil company, said it was winding down production yesterday.
Libyan banks have stopped financing exports, refineries have cut operations and some export terminals are closed, oil traders said.
One trader quoted by Reuters said Libya had declared force majeure on its exports, meaning it could no longer fulfil contractual export obligations.
Output was already down by about 400,000 barrels a day, equal to about a quarter of the normal levels, industry executives said.
Libya's high-quality oil would be tough to replace in the short term and Italy would have to resort to gas in storage to keep its power stations running, they added.
Other Opec nations including Saudi Arabi and the UAE have offered to increase oil supply to compensate for any disruption, but ministers meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday said there was no need for extra oil yet.
"There is no shortage of supply," said Ali al Naimi, the Saudi Arabian minister for petroleum.
Opec has between 5 million and 6 million barrels of daily oil capacity available to cover any disruption, and stands ready to use it at short notice, Mr al Naimi said.
The International Energy Agency (IEA), which represents energy importers, met Opec ministers in Riyadh on Tuesday and said the situation was still unclear.
"We don't know what is going on in Libya," said Nobuo Tanaka, the executive director of the IEA.
"The IEA has 1.6 billion barrels of strategic stockpiles and will use it if a serious disruption happens."