NEW YORK - Oil prices rose to their highest levels since late 2014 on Monday, boosted by the latest troubles for Venezuelan oil company PDVSA and a looming decision on whether the United States will re-impose sanctions on Iran.
Brent crude oil futures were at $75.81 a barrel at 10:20 a.m. EDT (1420 GMT), up 94 cents. At the session high, they touched their peak since November 2014 at $75.91.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 69 cents to $70.40, the first time since November 2014 that WTI had climbed above $70.
China's Shanghai crude oil futures, launched in March, broke their dollar-converted record high, touching $72.54.
U.S. oil major ConocoPhillips has moved to take Caribbean assets of Venezuela's state-run PDVSA to enforce a $2 billion arbitration award, three sources told Reuters. The move could deal a further blow to the company's declining oil output and exports.
"If ConocoPhillips is successful, then it will limit the revenues PDVSA will have and give them even more problems paying their bills and producing their oil," said Gene McGillian, manager of market research at Tradition in Stamford.
"Venezuela seemed to get support over the last year from Russia and China. So now there's the question of what kind of deal will they have to make in order to get even more support?" McGillian said.
Venezuela's oil output has halved since the early 2000s to 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd), hit by a lack of investment.
Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said he was concerned about possible shortages of spare crude production capacity.
Also boosting prices is the widespread expectation that U.S. President Donald Trump will withdraw from the Iranian nuclear pact. Trump has a May 12 deadline to determine whether to extend sanction waivers.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is in the United States in an effort to convince the Trump administration to stay in the deal.
"The extraterritorial nature of U.S. sanctions, which cover energy, shipbuilding, finance, trade, insurance, etc., means that ... Iran's oil exports could credibly be curtailed by 200,000-300,000 bpd," RBC Capital Markets analyst Helima Croft said in a note.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak pledged Russia's 100 percent compliance in May with an OPEC-led pact to reduce production.
But U.S. output has soared by more than a quarter in the past two years to 10.62 million bpd and is likely to rise further this year as energy companies keep drilling.