Oil prices fell on Monday as drilling activity in the United States picked up and a refinery fire in the US state of Illinois resulted in the shutdown of a large crude distillation unit. Concerns about faltering economic growth curbing fuel demand also weighed on oil markets, traders said. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $52.17 per barrel at 0750 GMT, down 55 cents, or 1 percent, from their last settlement. International Brent crude oil futures were down 27 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $61.83 a barrel. In the United States, energy firms last week increased the number of oil rigs operating for the second time in three weeks, a weekly report by Baker Hughes said on Friday. Companies added seven oil rigs in the week to Feb. 8, bringing the total count to 854, pointing to a further rise in US crude production, which already stands at a record 11.9 million bpd. WTI prices were also weighed down by the closure of a 120,000-barrels-per-day (bpd) crude distillation unit (CDU) at Phillips 66’s Wood River, Illinois, refinery following a fire on Sunday. Elsewhere, the head of Russian oil giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin, has written to the Russian President Vladimir Putin saying Moscow’s deal with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to withhold output is a strategic threat and plays into the hands of the United States.Published in Daily Times, February 12th 2019.