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Crude oil prices fall as pipeline fears ease

NEW YORK -- Crude oil prices slipped yesterday after US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said extra supplies can replace oil lost from the shutdown of a major Alaskan pipeline .

The Energy Information Administration, the government's energy statistics arm, said in its short-term energy outlook earlier in the day that, based on pipeline owner BP PLC's statement Monday that recovery would take several months, it expects Alaskan crude oil production to gradually return to full production before February. That would result in the loss of about 50 million barrels of oil over the next six months.

But later yesterday, Bodman said there are adequate supplies to make up for the loss to West Coast refineries. Relatively high inventories of crude oil in the system and oil that can be diverted from other producers, including Saudi Arabia and Mexico, can help meet refinery needs, he said.

``My sense is we're in pretty reasonable shape," Bodman told a news conference.

Light sweet crude for September delivery fell 67 cents to settle at $76.31 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after a high of $77.45 before Bodman's speech.

Brent crude on London's ICE futures exchange fell 75 cents to settle at $77.55 a barrel yesterday.

BP Exploration Alaska said late Sunday it had begun shutting down 400,000 barrels of daily oil production at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. The price jumped more than $2 Monday to settle at $76.98 a barrel, the highest since a record $77.03 closing on July 14.

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