The Fall of Tripoli and the crude oil market

Though petroleum supplies were rarely cited as the heart of the conflict between NATO-backed rebels and the government of Colonel Muammar Gadhafi, they cast a long shadow over Libya's civil war. Western militaries intervened in the North African nation but have allowed similar and even harsher repressive measures to pass with mere warnings and condemnations in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen.

There can be no doubt that Gadhafi is a brutal ruler who forged tribal military alliances to impose a cruel order on a fractious nation, sending assassins and terrorists after his enemies worldwide - though his paranoia was probably largely justified by efforts to assassinate him on the ground and from the air .

With the rebel coalition rolling into the streets of Tripoli, facing little to no opposition, NATO's air support and on-the-ground operations by special forces teams appear to have achieved their goal of offering air superiority and a significant tactical advantage to an ad-hoc coalition of Libyan fighters.

The news almost immediately impacted Brent crude oil futures, which fell 1.21 percent to $107.31 per barrel on Monday trading. The Brent contract has been more affected by the Libyan conflict because it closely tracks international oil prices. West Texas intermediate light, sweet crude futures, which reflect U.S. prices, rose 1.19 percent to $83.24 per barrel.

However, a lot will depend on the struggle the rebels face, which will likely be even more challenging than the military defeat of Colonel Gadhafi. The coalition must rebuild a shattered nation, repairing both the physical infrastructure and the national government, while maintaining some semblance of order and unity between rival interests and tribes.

Before the war, the FT writes, the country produced approximately 1.6 million barrels of light, sweet crude oil per day. Libya's crude is of a much higher quality than most of the other OPEC sources, particularly the reserves, which created great difficulties for French and other refineries trying to import heavier grades. Many European refineries turned to Nigeria, which produces similarly light crude petroleum.

The extent of the damage to the Libya fields has not yet been assessed, and in the past half-year the disruption of war has dropped the nation's production to just 50,000 barrels per day.

U.S. stock futures rose, with NASDAQ 100 futures climbing 35 points to 2,076 at 8:35 a.m. EST and S&P 500 futures gaining 16.6 points to 1,140.10.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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