LONDON: Oil prices briefly rose to a record high above $72 a barrel on Thursday, then declined as traders locked in profits from recent rallies and Royal Dutch Shell said an oil platform damaged by Hurricane Katrina would resume producing 140,000 barrels of crude by the end of June.

Oil prices settled at a record high for the third straight day on Wednesday after weekly U.S. Government data showed a drop in U.S. gasoline stocks, raising worries that refiners don't have an adequate inventory cushion ahead of the peak summer season.

Traders also are anxious that the U.S.-led efforts to stop Iran, OPEC's second-largest member, from pursuing a suspected nuclear weapons programme could lead to a disruption in Persian Gulf oil supplies.

Oil futures contracts through November 2009 are now trading above $70 a barrel, indicating traders believe high prices could be here to stay. AP