Oil prices surged Monday as Norway's oil industry appeared headed for a labor lockout at 2200 GMT with little hint that a shutdown will be avoided in Western Europe's largest oil and gas producer.
After pension talks between the industry and unions failed over the weekend, the industry side raised hopes that the Norwegian government would step in at the last minute.
"It is definitely possible that the government will intervene," said Eli Ane Nedreskaar, spokeswoman for the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF), an employer's group.
Speaking earlier, though, Petroleum and Energy Ministry spokesman Haakon Smith-Isaksen gave no hint of government action.
"As the situation stands now, the lockout will be enforced from midnight (2200 GMT)," he said.
"The consequence of the lockout is a controlled close-down of all Norwegian petroleum production and exports" when stocks are exhausted, he said.
After falling for three days, prices bounced back Monday as negotiations came to a standstill.
In New York the main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for August delivery, gained $1.54 to $85.99 a barrel.
In London trade, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in August surged $2.13 to $100.32 a barrel.
The lockout in the world's eighth-largest oil exporter and second-largest gas exporter was announced by state oil giant Statoil on Friday in response to the strike launched on June 24 by more than 700 North Sea oil workers.
On Monday the unions reiterated their commitment to their pension fight which OLF says is costing the industry tens of millions of euros a day.
The lockout will affect all production on Norway's continental shelf, where about 50 companies operate including Statoil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell.
JPMorgan's commodities research arm said that lost production volume could rise from the current 250,000 barrels per day to 1.4 million barrels per day.
"At this point, opinions are divided as to whether the Norwegian government will intervene to avert a possible shutdown," it said in a research note.
In pointed out that a year ago when a similar volume of Libyan crude was cut from the market, oil prices rose $25 a barrel.
"But because a disruption to Norwegian supplies of this order of magnitude is likely to be short-lived, so far the market reaction has been much more muted."