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updated 3/3/2011 1:26:52 PM ET 2011-03-03T18:26:52

Oil prices climbed Tuesday as Iran clamped down on anti-government protesters and unrest in the Middle East threatened to keep energy prices high for months to come.

Crude rose $2.66 to settle at $99.63 per barrel. In London, Brent crude rose $3.62 to settle at $115.42 per barrel.

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The recent surge in oil has pushed up gasoline prices in the U.S. by nearly 20 cents per gallon in the past week. That's the sharpest increase since 2005, according to the Oil Price Information Service. Americans are now paying roughly $75.6 million more per day to fill up than a week ago.

Oil prices surged 13 percent last week, peaking above $100 per barrel, as Libyan protesters expanded their control over the country. While the Libyan uprising continued Tuesday, news agencies reported that Iranian authorities imprisoned opposition leaders in Tehran. Iranian authorities denied the reports.

Pro-reform groups have clashed with the Iranian government. Jailing opposition leaders would be a major escalation of the country's political crisis. Iran exports about 2.5 million barrels of oil and natural gas liquids per day, about 3 percent of global demand.

The Iran protests are among the latest uprisings that have churned through North Africa and the Middle East, a crucial region that's responsible for most of the world's crude exports. Analysts say it's impossible to say how long it will take for uprisings to play out, but energy markets likely will be on edge through the summer.

Analysts added that they're still concerned about unrest in Algeria, which produces 1.8 million barrels per day, as well as increasing threats facing Iraq's oil supplies. Militants set off bombs in an attack on Iraq's largest refinery over the weekend.

The unrest which has forced oil companies in Libya to evacuate workers and shut down production operations has so far not had a major impact on world petroleum supplies, as refineries turn to other countries for oil including Saudi Arabia, which can crank up its production by another 5 million barrels per day.

The concern is that spare production capacity is now declining faster than expected, which means supplies could be harder to find in the future as global consumption increases.

"The pressure on spare capacity will be immense, as will be that on oil prices over the course of 2011," Barclays Capital analyst Helima Croft said in a research note.

Story: Bernanke warns recent oil price surge could impede U.S. growth

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Tuesday that a prolonged rise in oil prices would hurt the U.S. economy. But he said runaway inflation is unlikely. "The most likely outcome is that the recent rise in commodity prices will lead to, at most, a temporary and relatively modest increase in U.S. consumer price inflation," Bernanke said.

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Explainer: Overview of Libya's oil resources

  • Image: A Libyan oil worker, works at a refinery inside the Brega oil complex
    AP

    OPEC member Libya is the 17th largest producer in the world, third largest producer in Africa and holds the continent's largest crude oil reserves. It normally pumps around 1.6 million bpd, 85 percent of which is exported to Europe and its output is equivalent to about 2 percent of global oil consumption.

  • Libya's place in the oil producing world

    How the country measures up in crude supplies and production.

  • Exports

    Before the war, Libya was a net exporter with domestic consumption estimated at only around 270,000 bpd.

    Europe was most affected by Libyan oil export disruptions. About 28 percent of Libya's oil went to Italy, 10 percent to Germany, 11 percent to China and France and 3 percent to the United States.

    Libyan oil accounted for about 23 percent of Ireland's oil and about 22 percent of Italy's, according to the IEA.

    Around 13 percent went east of the Suez Canal to Asia.

    The shortfall from the loss of Libyan output was covered by alternative sources such as Nigeria and Azerbaijan, which produce similar light crude oils to Libyan oil.

    Saudi Arabia also brought some it its spare capacity online, according to Saudi sources. The kingdom promised to fill any supply gap caused by the unrest in Libya although it produces heavier crude with higher sulfur content than Libya.

  • Infrastructure

    Reuters

    Oil fields
    Most of Libya's oil fields are located in and around the Sirte Basin, in the northeastern part of the country, which contains around 80 percent of the country's proven reserves.

    Other key areas include the Ghadames Basin, about 240 miles south of Tripoli and Cyrenaica Basin in the northeast and the Murzuq oil field in the desert in the south of the country.

    Libya has five domestic refineries with a combined capacity of 378,000 barrels a day:

    Azzawiya Oil Refining Co
    Sarir Refining
    Sirte Oil Co
    Tobruk Refining
    Ras Lanuf Oil & Gas Processing Co

    Ports
    Libya exported various grades of light crude from six major terminals, five of which are located in the eastern part of the country, where protests erupted near the second city of Benghazi.

    Following are the eastern terminals with pre-war loading volumes in January, 2011 provided by the IEA.

    Es Sider 447,000 barrels per day
    Marsa El Brega 51,000 bpd
    Ras Lanuf 195,000 bpd
    Tobruk 51,000 bpd
    Zueitina 214,000 bpd
    Zawiyah 199,000 bpd (January exports)
    Oother unspecified terminals 333,000 bpd

  • Companies

    Image: Libyan oil worker, works at a refinery inside the Brega oil complex
    AP

    Libya's state company
    Under the Gaddafi regime, Libya’s oil industry was run by the state-owned National Oil Corporation (NOC), which was responsible for managing exploration and production sharing agreements with international oil companies. Along with smaller subsidiary companies, the NOC accounted for around 50 percent of the country's oil output.

    Foreign players
    Major oil companies operating in Libya include:

    BP (Great Britain)
    ConocoPhillips (United States)
    Eni (Italy)
    ExxonMobil (United States)
    Hess Corp (United States)
    Marathon (United States)
    Occidental Petroleum (United States)
    OMV (Austria)
    Repsol (Spain)
    Shell (United States)
    Statoil (Norway)
    Wintershall, a unit of BASF (Germany)

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Data: Latest rates in the US

Home equity rates View rates in your area
Home equity type Today +/- Chart
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