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Brent crude futures LCOc1, the international benchmark, settled 30 cents, or 0.5 percent lower at $66.57 a barrel

Brent crude futures LCOc1, the international benchmark, settled 30 cents, or 0.5 percent lower at $66.57 a barrel

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by staff ()

Oil prices hit mid-2015 highs in early trading on Tuesday but dipped to settle slightly lower as major pipelines in Libya and the UK restarted and U.S production soared to the highest level in more than four decades.

It was the first time since January 2014 that the two crude oil benchmarks opened a year above $60 per barrel. Prices were buoyed by large anti-government rallies in Iran and supply cuts led by OPEC and Russia.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 settled 5 cents lower at $60.37 a barrel. In early trading WTI hit $60.74, the highest level since June 2015.

Brent crude futures LCOc1, the international benchmark, settled 30 cents, or 0.5 percent lower at $66.57 a barrel. The session high of $67.29 was the highest since May 2015.

The spread between U.S. crude and Brent hit the narrowest in nearly two weeks.

The 450,000 barrel per day (bpd) capacity Forties pipeline system in the North Sea returned to full operations on Dec. 30 after an unplanned shutdown.

Repairs have been completed on a Libyan oil pipeline damaged in a suspected attack last week and production is restarting gradually, engineers said.

“The resolution of the North Sea pipeline issue is having the expected result that the Brent-WTI spread is narrowing today,” David Thompson, executive vice-president at Powerhouse, an energy-specialized commodities broker in Washington.

Thompson added that traders have been returning to work from the holidays, boosting volumes