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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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Oil Could See Its Biggest Supply Shock Since 1973

  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions that have been levied against it have sent shockwaves through global energy markets. 
  • Inventories in major oil-consuming developed economies, including in the United States, have been falling steadily.
  • The energy crisis today is “comparable in intensity, in brutality, to the oil shock of 1973,” France’s Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

The global oil market was tight even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but Putin’s war and its consequences on Russian crude supply and energy prices have the potential to hurl the market into a major supply shock comparable with the 1973 Arab oil embargo.  Oil stocks in major oil-consuming developed economies, including in the United States, have been falling steadily for several months now as demand rebounds. 

U.S. market balances are tight, with commercial crude inventories of 411.6 million barrels, 13 percent below the five-year average for this time of the year. Gasoline inventories are some 1 percent above the five-year average, but distillate fuel inventories are about 18 percent lower, and propane/propylene inventories are 21 percent below the five-year average for this time of year, the EIA’s latest inventory report for the week ending March 4 showed.

As demand rebounds, global oil supply has struggled to catch up, as OPEC+ is adding just 400,000 barrels per day to the group’s oil production each month. For months, the production increase has been lower than 400,000 bpd—and at times half of this figure—because many OPEC+ producers lack either the capacity or investments to boost output to their quotas. 

As early as January, major investment banks started to predict that oil could hit $100 per barrel at some point this year due to tight market balances. 

After Russia invaded Ukraine, it took just a month for prices to top the triple digits. Now, the talk is whether oil could hit $150 a barrel as Russian oil is being shunned by European buyers, while China alone may not be able to take all the seaborne volumes that would have gone to Europe otherwise. 

Russia will have to shut in some of its oil production as it will be unable to sell all the volumes displaced from European markets to other regions, with Russian crude production falling and staying depressed for at least the next three years, Standard Chartered said on Thursday. Even before the U.S. ban on energy imports from Russia, trade in Russian commodities had become toxic for many global players

The war in Ukraine added a lot of geopolitical risk premium to an already tight oil market to create a perfect storm for skyrocketing oil prices. 

“Nothing is crazy in this oil market anymore,” Michael Tran, managing director of global energy strategy at RBC Capital Markets, told Bloomberg this week, which saw wild swings in oil prices with Brent’s trading range in a record $33 per barrel.  

The tight market and Russia’s struggles to sell its oil are setting the stage for the biggest supply shock since the 1970s—the Arab oil embargo of 1973-1974 and the Iranian revolution of 1979, analysts including Reuters market analyst John Kemp note.

In early March, Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Markit, told CNBC, commenting on the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine: 

“This is going to be a really big disruption in terms of logistics, and people are going to be scrambling for barrels.” 

“This is a supply crisis. It’s a logistics crisis. It’s a payment crisis, and this could well be on the scale of the 1970s,” Yergin added. 

Related: OPEC Discusses Oil Market With U.S. Shale Executives

The energy crisis today is “comparable in intensity, in brutality, to the oil shock of 1973,” France’s Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said this week as carried by RFI.  

“In 1973 ... the response caused an inflationary shock, leading central banks to massively increase their rates, which killed off growth,” Le Maire said, adding that the world would want to avoid such stagflation this year. 

The cure to high oil prices could be demand destruction. Or OPEC+ stepping up to fill the gap from Russia, which means OPEC producers with spare capacity—Saudi Arabia and the UAE—to be willing to increase production much more than the OPEC+ pact calls for, possibly without breaking up said the pact, in which non-OPEC Russia is a leading member.  

The market will need those volumes, also because U.S. shale cannot significantly ramp up production in the short term. 

Sanctions or not, “it has become increasingly clear that Russian oil is being ostracized,” J.P. Morgan says

The preliminary Russian crude loadings for March revealed a 1 million bpd drop in the loadings from the Black Sea ports, a 1 million bpd drop from the Baltics, and a 500,000 bpd drop in the Far East. In addition, there is an estimated 2.5 million bpd loss in oil products loadings from the Black Sea, for a total loss of 4.5 million bpd, according to J.P. Morgan. 

“So large is the immediate supply shock that we believe prices need to increase to $120/bbl and stay there for months to incentivize demand destruction, assuming no immediate Iranian volumes,” said Natasha Kaneva, Head of Global Commodities Strategy at J.P. Morgan. 

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on March 13 2022 said:
    Even before the Ukraine crisis developed into an armed conflict, prevailing conditions in the global oil market were developing into similar conditions that prevailed before the Arab oil embargo of 1973.

    The shared conditions are: (1) A rapid expansion in the global economy. (2) Global oil markets are operating at virtually full capacity. (3) Global investment in oil exploration and capacity expansion were declining. 1

    In both the 1973 embargo and now the sanctions any disruption of supplies would have been politically motivated and deliberate. The 1973 oil embargo was the result of a decision by Arab oil-producing countries to punish the United States for its support and supply of weapons to Israel during the 6th of October 1973 war. In 2022, sanctions are a deliberate action by the United States and the European Union (EU) to punish Russia for the Ukraine conflict.

    However, there is one major difference. In the 1973 embargo millions of barrels of oil were deliberately withdrawn from the market causing oil prices to rise and the global GDP to decline by an estimated 5.0%-6.0%. 2 In 2022 no oil barrels are being withdrawn from the market but there is a deliberate campaign orchestrated by the United States to boycott Russian oil and gas exports.

    No producer in the world can replace an estimated 8.0 million barrels a day (mbd) of Russian crude oil exports composed of 5.0 mbd of crude and 3.3 mbd of refined products.

    These 8.0 mbd won’t just disappear into thin air. A very big chunk of them already goes to China, the world’s largest energy market. Moreover, China could easily be enticed by discounts to buy much bigger oil volumes. Another chunk is bough discretely by oil traders in the Western capitalist countries who worship money. They aren’t going to miss a chance of making more money by not buying discounted Russian crude. Furthermore, selling a reduced volume of Russian crude is offset by rising oil prices. This reduces any Russian financial loss very significantly.

    The United States is the world’s second largest importer of crude oil after China importing an estimated 9.0 mbd. The US economy is more vulnerable to price shocks than the other major economies.

    The Ukraine conflict isn’t going to last for ever. It could be sorted out immediately once Russian security demands have been agreed upon and Ukraine’s neutrality has been enshrined in its constitution and in an international treaty between the United States and NATO on the one hand and Russia on the other.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

    Sources:
    ---------------
    1- Mamdouh G Salameh, Oil Crises, Historical Perspective, Encyclopedia of Energy, Volume
    4, Elsevier, 2004, p 642.
    2- Ibid., p 642 .
  • DAVID GOLDMAN on March 14 2022 said:
    "In 2022 no oil barrels are being withdrawn from the market but there is a deliberate campaign orchestrated by the United States to boycott Russian oil and gas exports."

    Schwab's WEF's Build Back Better program is a demand destruction engine. Biden is on board.
    Germany has been as well. The demise of western sovereign states is the object.

    Tally ho!

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