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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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Analysts Warn Of $150 Oil If The West Bans Russian Crude

  • Western leaders have so far been reluctant to slap sanctions on Russian oil and gas exports.
  • Oil buyers and refiners are already in a sort of ‘self-sanctioning’ mode.
  • Analysts: Iranian barrels cannot replace the loss of Russian oil.

The United States and the European Union have been reluctant to slap sanctions on Russia's oil and gas exports since Putin invaded Ukraine, as the Western allies are concerned about the repercussions on Europe's energy supply and skyrocketing oil and gasoline prices.  

Still, potential sanctions on Russian energy exports are not off the table. If the West bans Russian oil, international crude prices could skyrocket to $150 per barrel, analysts say. 

But even in the event of no sanctions on Russian oil, prices are set to remain very high and jump higher still because buyers and refiners are in a "self-sanctioning" mode, not daring to touch Russian crude and looking for alternative supplies. The possibility of an Iranian nuclear deal that would allow Iran to legitimately return to exporting its oil is a potential drag on oil prices, but barrels from the Islamic Republic cannot replace the loss of Russian oil, analysts say. 

"While some remain transfixed with the idea that an Iran agreement will provide much needed relief (from rising oil prices), we again caution that the deal is still not done and the sums entailed would simply be too small to backfill a major Russian disruption," RBC Capital analyst Helima Croft wrote in a note cited by Reuters on Thursday. 

There is already disruption in Russian oil exports as Moscow meets mounting challenges in selling its seaborne crude and oil products, with traders, refiners, banks, insurers, and tanker owners unwilling to touch anything coming out of Russia.  

Russia's invasion of Ukraine was met with a severe sanctions response from the U.S., the EU, and the UK. The Western allies kicked several Russian banks out of the international SWIFT system, and although direct sanctions on Russia's oil and gas are not (yet) implemented, trade in Russian commodities has become toxic for many global players

"Because of the banking sanctions we've estimated about 70% of Russian crude oil exports can't be touched. That's about 3.8 million bpd," Amrita Sen, Director of Research at Energy Aspects, told CNBC on Wednesday.

Russia's crude and refined product exports have dropped by one-third, or by 2.5 million bpd, this week, according to estimates from Energy Intelligence based on shipping data and interviews with traders. 

Oil market participants have started to realize that a lot of Russian oil could be off the market in the near future—even if the West doesn't impose direct sanctions on Russian oil—adding to the already tight market balances. 

The oil market seems to believe that sanctions on Russian oil are coming, John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital, told CNBC this week.  

"These are barrels that we cannot make up, so that's why this market is on tenterhooks," Kilduff said.  

Sanctions on oil from Russia—which exports around 5 million bpd of crude and 2.8 million bpd of refined products—would have a much bigger effect on market balances compared to the sanctions on Iran and Venezuela of the previous years, analysts say. 

Yet, even without direct sanctions, buyers have started to "self-sanction" themselves, as analysts say.   

Refiners have started to replace Russian crude. Some of the biggest U.S. importers of Russian crude oil have started suspending their purchases of the commodity, including Monroe Energy, the third-biggest U.S. buyer of Russian oil. 

Neste of Finland said on Tuesday, "Due to the current situation and the uncertainty in the market, Neste has mostly replaced Russian crude oil with other crudes, such as North Sea oil." Neste is preparing "for various options in procurement, production and logistics."

On Wednesday, Portugal's energy group Galp said that it was suspending all new purchases of petroleum products either sourced in Russia or from Russian companies. 

"Our decision is simple: Galp will not contribute to finance war," the company said. 

Meanwhile, in Russia, Surgutneftegaz hasn't been able to award spot cargoes in three consecutive tenders over the past week, as no one is bidding even at the huge discounts of the Urals grade to Dated Brent. 

Russian oil flows are already disrupted by the existing sanctions and even if direct sanctions on oil don't follow, the market will struggle to replace barrels already lost to "self-sanctioning," even if Iran returns to exporting crude soon.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on March 06 2022 said:
    There is a growing concern in the global oil market that the United States and the European Union (EU) could be on the verge of sanctioning Russian oil and gas exports. Alternatively, Russia might retaliate against sanctions by halting its global oil and gas exports. Russia exports 8.0 million barrels a day (mbd) in total composed of 5.0 mbd of crude and 3.0 mbd of refined products.

    Either case, it will cause Brent crude to rise above $120 and gas and LNG prices to hit unheard of levels. This will very adversely affect the global economy particularly the economies of both the United States and the EU.

    The United States is the world’s second largest importer of crude oil after China importing an estimated 9.0 mbd on average in 2021. It is highly vulnerable to oil price shocks. Moreover, US shale oil production is stagnating.

    The EU which is dependent on Russian gas supplies for more than 40% of its needs and 30% of oil will be the biggest loser with rising oil and gas prices making the EU’s current energy crisis worse and more damaging thus impacting very adversely on the EU’s economic growth this year.

    Even with sanctions, 8.0 mbd of Russian oil exports wouldn’t disappear into thin air. A large chunk of these exports will find its way to China and another chunk will be bought discretely by oil traders exactly in the same way that Iranian and Venezuela crudes are being sold. Capitalist countries of the West worship money so they aren’t going to miss a chance of making more money from buying discounted Russian crude.

    In the current tight global oil market with a shrinking global spare oil production capacity including OPEC’s, neither OPEC+ nor Saudi Arabia or US shale oil production can replace Russian oil exports.

    In such a situation there can be no winners, everyone will be a loser particularly the economies of those who imposed the sanctions in the first place, namely the United States’ and the European Union’.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • John IL on March 06 2022 said:
    The US current administration has not made good energy decisions. They put all their eggs in the renewable energy basket and now Americans are paying the price. Not only is the US in a bind but Europe as well . All are in bed with Russia on energy. Poor politics have made this problem and their is no out.
  • peep rada on March 06 2022 said:
    Brent is already $118. Many oil buyers already avoid russian oil even without sanctions. So that russia had to lower the price to $98. And still sales of russian oil have dropped more than 50%.
    While Putin is ruling in Kremlin and threatening the world with nuclear war $150 is very small price to pay. It is a logical consequence of hybrid war that Putin is waging against the west, trying to expand his personal empire. The faster Putin is eliminated, the better for ukraininans, russians and the rest of the world.

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