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Geopolitical Risk Is Rising Once Again

- Iran seized a U.S. oil tanker that had loaded in Iraq and was on its way to Turkey on Thursday. The act was one of retaliation for the U.S. seizure of a ship last year carrying what Washington said was Iranian oil for China in violation of sanctions. The vessel seized was the same vessel, under a different name, that was seized for carrying Iranian oil in 2023.

- The Houthis launched their biggest attack in the Red Sea yet on Tuesday this week, with the U.S. and UK shooting down 21 drones and missiles targeting merchant vessels near the Bab el Mandeb Strait. In a further significant development late on Thursday, the U.S. and the UK launched airstrikes against Houthi military targets in Yemen for the first time, risking a major escalation of the regional conflict. Oil prices were already on the rise ahead of the airstrikes on Houthi positions in Yemen, as a result of Iran’s seizure of a U.S. oil tanker earlier in the day, but the two incidents combined will create additional volatility for oil markets.

- Libya, which last weekend saw the shutdown by protests of its 300,000-bpd Sharara oilfield–the country’s largest–is now facing new protests to shut down oil processing facilities at the Zawiya refinery, which is connected to Sharara. These threats could take another ~130,000 bpd off the market (oil that flows through the Greenstream pipeline connecting to Italy). While the protests are about corruption, public services, jobs, and distribution…

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