Oil prices rose on Thursday due to a massive plunge in US crude oil inventories and a delay in Iranian oil coming to the market from the protracted US-Iran talks that are currently paused.
International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $75.48 per barrel at 06.57 GMT for a 0.39% increase after closing Tuesday at $75.19 a barrel.
American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) traded at $73.39 a barrel at the same time for a 0.42% rise after ending the previous session at $73.08 per barrel.
Both benchmarks hit their highest level since 2018 when Brent traded at $76.92 on Oct. 31 and WTI hit $75.08 on Oct. 10. These record highs came on hopes of greater oil demand, as US crude stocks fell by more than the market expected last week.
US commercial crude oil inventories fell by 7.6 million barrels, or 1.6%, to 459.1 million barrels, relative to the market expectation of a fall of 3.6 million barrels, according to data released by the country's Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday.
The stalled talks between the US and Iran on the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal and removal of US sanctions on Iran also reflected positively on prices as an agreement would mean extra Iranian barrels flooding the market.
Although Iran announced Wednesday that Washington agreed to remove all sanctions on Iran's oil and shipping and to take some senior Iranian political figures off a blacklist to revive Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal, the US did not make an official statement on the issue.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned that there were still significant hurdles during the talks in Vienna but did not rule out an agreement even after newly-elected Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, an implacable US critic, came to power.
Over the past several weeks, Iran and other signatories to the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), have been engaged in marathon negotiations in the Austrian capital Vienna to revive the accord.
Former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the agreement in 2018, and not only reimposed sweeping sanctions it had agreed to lift under the deal but imposed new ones in the hope that the penalties would bring Iran back to negotiations for what Trump hoped would be a "better" deal.
Iran resisted his efforts and instead stepped away from the nuclear restrictions it agreed to under the accord as regional tensions between the US and the Islamic Republic soared.
The JCPOA is an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program reached in Vienna on July 14, 2015, between Iran and the P5+1, comprising the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US -- plus Germany together with the European Union.
By Sibel Morrow